A damning audit report being released by the provincial government on Thursday (July 16), outlining more than $1.6-million in unaccounted funds at Lethbridge’s supervised consumption site.
Accounting firm Deloitte recently completed a grant expenditure audit, after the UCP government was tipped off a few months ago about possible financial irregularities within ARCHES, the non-profit that runs the site. That review found millions of taxpayer dollars went unaccounted for between 2017 and 2018, due to missing or inaccurate documentation.
The province highlighting several parts of the audit in an official statement. Those include $13,000 being used for ARCHES staff parties, retreats, entertainment and gift cards, a senior executive earning more than $342,000 last year, ARCHES employing more staff than what’s allowed in their grant contract and thousands of dollars being spent on unverifiable travel expenses.
Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Jason Luan, says it’s “disturbing and extremely disappointing” that taxpayer funds, which were supposed to serve the community’s most vulnerable, were misappropriated in such a way.
Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman says he’s disappointed ARCHES may have misappropriated provincial funding intended for the supervised consumption site.
He told media on Thursday “I feel angry, to be honest. We in good faith thought harm reduction and supervised consumption was perhaps a needed service. It’s disappointing and certainly impacts the reputation of harm reduction and supervised consumption.”
Spearman also said for the community’s most vulnerable, potentially losing the SCS services could be devastating, and that “hopefully we’ll be able to maintain some form of communication to get those people the help that they need and we need to have processes to make sure that those supports are provided to help people out of addiction.”
The province says it will be consulting with police to determine if a criminal investigation is warranted, and grant funding will be cut off immediately to ARCHES.
A temporary, mobile overdose prevention site will be set up in Lethbridge, in the meantime, to seamlessly transition services for clients.