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Auditor General finds conflict-of-interest in awarding of housing authority contracts

Kim Adair believes there was a 'clear mixing' between the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority director's professional responsibilities and his private business interests
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Nova Scotia Auditor General Kim Adair fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.

Nova Scotia's auditor general has released a report revealing a conflict-of-interest in the awarding of some contracts by the Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority (MRHA).

In the report released Tuesday, Kim Adair says $1.3 million in security services contracts were awarded to three companies in October of 2020.

According to the AG, $996,000 of that went to a contractor with ties to MRHA's director and most senior employee, who she doesn't name, but says was involved in the tendering process.

She says some of those conflicts were not disclosed, and she believes there was a "clear mixing" between his professional responsibilities and his private business interests.

"He was involved in the $1 million contract to the company, there were personal property transactions between the director and the company, and the director had a role with a pilot project for tenant services prior to the larger contract," Adair outlined to reporters Tuesday. "And the director was involved in the selecting of that same company for the pilot."

"He was also a private landlord in receipt of government rent subsidies for over a decade, so there was a clear mixing and a clear conflict-of-interest."

Adair explained the report was launched as a result of information received by her office during June audit on public housing, adding it was "not designed to detect or conclude on potential criminal wrongdoing."

"I feel the findings in this report have far-reaching implications for all government departments to take note of," she stated.

"A key takeaway from this report is the province needs to ensure conflicts-of-interest are avoided, declared and addressed to maintain public confidence in the administration of provincially-owned housing."

Adair has offered up four recommendations to improve conflict-of-interest processes.

"Including that the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing direct the Housing Authority to add conflict-of-interest language and disclosure requirements in all public tenders," the AG said.

"The department agrees with all recommendations and has already taken steps to implement, and in some cases, resolve them."

MRHA was the largest housing authority in the province, responsible for 4,000 housing units at 90 properties throughout Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County.

Last fall, it was one of five regional housing authorities amalgamated into a new Crown corporation called the Nova Scotia Provincial Housing Agency.

Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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