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More delays as forensic audit of TNRD spending now not expected to be finished until December

A forensic audit of spending at the Thompson-Nicola Regional District is expected to be completed in December.

TNRD CAO Scott Hildebrand told the board on Thursday (Oct. 21) that the hope was to have the report presented in early November, but noted the sheer volume of data and other “irregularities” have resulted in the need to push it back another month.

“Further irregularities and information have recently come to light, with the expanded scope that includes procurement and contract practices, that was communicated to the board recently, and our due diligence with these details is our priority,” Hildebrand said.

Hildebrand said the final report will be presented the week of Dec. 13. The TNRD has a regular board meeting scheduled that week, on Dec. 16, as well as a committee of the whole meeting scheduled the following day, on Dec. 17.

The meetings appear to be the last ones scheduled for the year and come just before Christmas.

“It’s unfortunate we are not able to meet our initial timelines, but a fulsome and factual understanding of this situation is critically important to the investigation,” Hildebrand told the board.

The financial audit is being conducted by BDO Canada. It comes in the wake of a KTW investigation into spending at the regional district, which followed the sudden departure of longtime CAO Sukh Gill in February 2020.

Gill left the regional district with a sizeable taxpayer-funded severance package, totalling about $520,000, which was uncovered through freedom of information requests by KTW.

At the time, the TNRD claimed Gill had retired, but the severance package, and a legal agreement between Gill and the regional district that mandated the TNRD refer to his departure as a “retirement,” raised questions about that narrative.

The total cost of the forensic audit is not yet known, though it is expected to be more expensive than first estimated. Initial cost estimate was between $50,000 and $75,000.

Not is it known how much of the information will be released to the public, as the regional district recently said it may be legally required to withhold some information.

The financial audit is occurring parallel to a RCMP criminal investigation into activities at the TNRD.

~ Jessica Wallace / Kamloops This Week