[CHARLOTTETOWN, PE] — Opposition Leader Olive Crane is raising concerns about whether former tourism deputy minister Melissa MacEachern was in a conflict of interest when she awarded over $1 million in contracts to the Tourism Research Centre.
Crane says she believes the fact MacEachern was seconded from the Tourism Research Centre (TRC) to work as a deputy minister for the Ghiz government placed her in a conflict situation when she was approving contracts and funding for her former employer.
“It raises, if that is indeed taking place, why the premier is not taking appropriate action on the behaviour of his deputy ministers,” Crane said.
During a meeting of the public accounts committee Tuesday, Younker revealed that some of the problems he highlighted in his 2012 report regarding certain contractual arrangements and payments issued by Tourism P.E.I. were made to the TRC and approved by MacEachern.
A letter signed by MacEachern outlining an arrangement worth $1.125 million over four years awarded to the TRC was submitted as a contract. Younker raised concerns about this arrangement because “the vast majority of minimum required standard treasury board clauses were not included” in this contractual agreement.
Younker also revealed two payments issued by Tourism P.E.I., which he flagged as problematic because there was no documentation to substantiate the work performed, were issued to TRC and approved by MacEachern. These payments totaled $44,000.
Crane was especially interested whether MacEachern was responsible for approving
$84,000 in payments that were made to an individual instead of the Tourism Research Centre .
The Canada Revenue Agency began investigating an employee of the research centre last February and the RCMP and Charlottetown city police also looked into similar allegations. Those preliminary probes have since closed.
Crane asked Younker Tuesday to bring back a list of all the contracts and payments approved by MacEachern, with a special emphasis on those that pertain to UPEI.
“It appears as though there’s a conflict of interest, it also appears that treasury board policies have been broken,” Crane said.
The committee also requested a list of all the contracts referenced in the AG report.
Opposition tourism critic James Aylward said he is relieved to finally be getting some answers on the Tourism P.E.I. contracts. During the recent sitting of the legislative, Aylward tried repeatedly to get details about these contracts, but was repeatedly stalled by Tourism Minister Robert Vessey.
Finding that several of the discrepancies highlighted in the AG report involved the Tourism Research Centre and MacEachern raises serious concerns, Aylward said.
“The deeper we dig on this the more we seem to be finding out.”
The committee sent out letters Tuesday calling for Tourism Minister Robert Henderson, current deputy David MacKenzie and former deputy MacEachern, who is now the deputy of Innovation, to appear and answer questions about the Tourism P.E.I. contracts.