Petition advocates defend cost of proposed forensic audit

Herald file photo. Former city councillor Evert Botha listens to a speaker during a council meeting in October 2019.

A local community group continues to petition for a full forensic audit of the City of Prince Albert, and push back against concerns the investigation will come at an increased cost to taxpayers.

According to Evert Botha, creator of the Prince Albert Business and Residents’ Advocacy Group (PABRAG) and former City Councillor,  the cost of a forensic audit could be upwards of $150,000 or more depending on how far deep it goes.

“The truth is we’re already paying for it, as it would be paid from the City’s budgeted surplus,” said Botha in an email to the Herald. “It certainly will not bankrupt the City, it may just save it!”

Following a State of the Community Forum back in Oct., PABRAG launched two petitions for a forensic financial audit of both the City and the Prince Albert Police Service; the first is a petition to the Province of Saskatchewan and the second is a petition to the City of Prince Albert.

Associate Professor Douglas Kalesnikoff with the Edwards School of Business at the University of Saskatchewan explained that a forensic financial audit is an in-depth investigation into specific allegations of wrongdoing. 

“There would have to be some degree of paring down on what the issues might be that are of concern… It’s much more integrated into what is happening surrounding a particular set of transactions or something like that,” said Kalesnikoff. “An analogy would be a foot wide and a mile deep.”

While he couldn’t provide an exact number, Kalesnikoff estimated that such an investigation would cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Instances of fraud, theft, or other financial misappropriation; improper or unauthorized transactions; non-compliance with provincial or federal statutes; and non-compliance with municipal bylaws are areas of concern for the proposed forensic financial audit, according to Botha. 

PABRAG was hoping to wrap up the petitions by Jan. 15, but Botha said they are running a bit behind their target. He explained that foot traffic to PABRAG locations has been slower than expected, which he contributes to a day and age where everything is online. 

“We have a motivated team of petitioners who will be canvassing businesses, community-based organizations and residents over the next two weeks,” said Botha. “Our mobile petition team will be heading out to collect outstanding petition sheets, as well as meeting residents at their work, home, or church to sign the petitions.”

The group is looking to present the petitions to the City Clerk’s Office on Monday, Jan. 23. 

The Herald attempted to contact the City’s Director of Financial Services several times for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.