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Attawapiskat audit: neglect on both sides

OTTAWA - An audit of millions of dollars in spending at the troubled Attawapiskat reserve in northern Ontario reveals an absence of basic accounting by the band council and ongoing indifference by federal government departments.

The Deloitte and Touche audit — released publicly by Indian and Northern Affairs today after being leaked to select media outlets — catalogues more than $109 million in spending over almost seven years, much of it poorly documented, undocumented, or questionable.

The audit comes as Theresa Spence, the elected chief of Attawapiskat, continues a hunger strike in Ottawa in an effort to focus the attention of the Harper government on First Nations concerns.

Among the 505 transactions examined from April 2005 through November 2011, fewer than 20 per cent could be fully tracked and documented — and 61 per cent had no documentation at all explaining the reason for payment.

The auditors report they found "no evidence of due diligence in the use of public funds" by the band, and conclude they were unable to determine if the funds were spent for their intended purpose.

The government-appointed auditors also found that poor housing conditions were not flagged by federal authorities, despite inspections by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

They also concluded that large sums of core housing funds were improperly diverted to pay interest charges with the full knowledge of the department of Indian Affairs.

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