It’s ‘a community matter’: Feds abdicate responsibility for questionable health care spending to Sagkeeng council

Federal officials say it’s up to a Manitoba First Nation to decide what to do about health care money funding questionable purchases, despite the fact the funding comes from Canadian taxpayers.An internal audit into the a Sagkeeng health centre showed more than $1.3 million was spent on things like travel allowances, speeding tickets, toys, movies, and honorariums for paid staff at Fort Alexander Health Centre in the community.Story continues below

The audit was called for by the current Chief, Derrick Henderson, after being elected in 2017 and firing the previous board of the centre.But despite the allegations of mismanagement of funds, no money has been ordered to be repaid and the federal government has not committed to investigating any further.“By investigating wrongdoing and ordering the audit, the leadership of Sagkeeng First Nation demonstrated the community’s commitment to providing quality health services and accountability to their members,” said a spokesperson with Indigenous Services Canada.“This is a community matter for the community to address,” he said in a statement by Global News.READ MORE: Internal audit finds $1.3 million in questionable spending at Sagkeeng First Nation health centre Since the audit, no one from Indigenous Services Canada has followed up and no one has been asked to pay any money back.Conservative Indigenous Services critic Cathy McLeod called the lack of action by the federal government a “huge concern.”“The federal government needs to take this issue of both transparency seriously … and make sure that they do the follow up when there is serious allegations,” she said. “Clearly that hasn’t happened in this case.“It’s $1.3 million that’s not supporting suicide prevention. It’s $1.3 million that’s not supporting people struggling with addictions and truly, it’s absolutely shameful.”McLeod also questioned why the federal government won’t answering what has changed to ensure taxpayer dollars go to the services they are intended for.“Clearly there wasn’t checks and balances,” she told Global News. “Was this further than that? Do they need to have some consultation of ‘did this cross the line into criminal?’ That’s the first question that they need to answer.”When governments form partnerships with other governments, there are contracts to make sure the money goes where it is supposed to go, said Todd MacKay of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.READ MORE: Sagkeeng health centre director accused of questionable spending faced similar audit in 1990s“This is a stunning lack of curiosity on Ottawa’s part,” he said.“How could Ottawa have known this audit has existed for more than a year and not been curious enough to ask for it? How can they not be doing their own checks to make sure the money is going to the places it need to go?”Global News has made repeated attempts to talk Sagkeeng First Nation Chief Derrick Henderson about the lack of follow-up, but he has refused.If you have additional information, concerns or comments about the allegations to share, please contact our newsroom.Get daily local headlines and alerts