BC Gov News Release: Province, BC Housing taking action on recommendations from forensic investigation
A new forensic investigation of BC Housing tabled in the legislature has found mismanagement related to a conflict of interest between the former CEO of BC Housing and his spouse, the CEO of Atira Women's Resource Society.
The independent investigation identified 20 recommendations to improve financial oversight, prevent conflicts of interest, and ensure accountability for public funding being used to provide housing. Several of these reforms have already been implemented resulting from an earlier review that included similar recommendations.
“We expect the rules to be followed. There must be strong safeguards in place to preserve the public’s trust,” said Premier David Eby. “In 2021, I ordered a review into concerns at BC Housing, which ultimately led to today’s findings. We are working with the new leadership at BC Housing to implement all 20 of the report’s recommendations to ensure that BC Housing operates effectively as we deliver housing for people.”
In March 2021, Premier Eby, then-Minister Responsible for Housing, ordered an external review be conducted of financial and operational systems at BC Housing. Following that review, work began on strengthening oversight processes and the board of BC Housing was replaced to ensure the organization had the appropriate financial expertise.
During the course of the initial review, further concerns came to light that were outside the scope of that review. In July 2022, at the request of then-minister Eby, the Office of the Comptroller General initiated a full forensic investigation to further evaluate details of BC Housing’s operations. In September 2022, the CEO of BC Housing resigned.
“We’re building a record amount of housing, but we need to do even more. That means our organizations must be equipped to properly manage these public funds,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “We have a new leadership team in place at BC Housing, who are leading the work to implement these recommendations and those from last year’s review. We’re united in our efforts to strengthen BC Housing’s processes and capacity as we continue to deliver the homes people need.”
While the financial investigation found no evidence of public funds being dispersed outside of their intended purpose or to provide material benefit to any one individual, Ernst and Young identified concerns with BC Housing’s financial oversight processes, including its conflict-of-interest protocols and the requirements under which funds were provided to Atira. Ernst and Young made 20 recommendations to modernize BC Housing’s financial accounting capabilities and improve its project and fiscal tracking systems.
BC Housing has already taken steps to enhance its financial accounting capabilities, policies and processes, stemming from last year’s external review, that address many of the report’s recommendations. BC Housing accepts all 20 of the report’s recommendations.
Work is complete or underway on all recommendations and will be fully implemented by spring 2024. This work includes:
- creation of an anonymous employee whistleblower hotline (complete);
- changes at the executive committee level to ensure enhanced controls in the way that projects are approved (complete);
- enhanced governance and oversight through new processes and structures created with the new Ministry of Housing (complete/underway);
- a government representative on the board (complete);
- strengthened standards of conduct/conflict of interest policies including annual mandatory training with policies overseen and reviewed annually by the board (complete/in progress);
- changes regarding how budget and financial reviews of housing providers are completed, including expected timelines and mechanisms for compliance (in progress); and
- enhanced tracking and reporting to the board of the budget and financial review process (in progress).
“The board recognizes the serious nature of the issues identified in this report, along with the report released last summer. That is why BC Housing has taken significant steps since fall 2022 to strengthen its organizational structure and capacity, financial systems, governance practices, and policies related to oversight, transparency and conflict-of-interest processes. In addition, BC Housing is already making progress on an action plan to respond to the recommendations in the forensic investigation,” said Allan Seckel, chair, board of commissioners. “Our board has complete confidence in BC Housing’s current executive committee to lead the organization through its evolution into the more complex organization we are becoming.”
BC Housing and government will be exercising its full rights under the Operator and Operating Agreements with Atira to carry out the following:
- reviewing Atira Women’s Resources Society (AWRS) and Atira Development Society (ADS) and its financial transactions with related entities, pursuant to applicable BC Housing operating and operator agreements;
- restricting any new funding to AWRS and ADS until the operational review is complete and concerns are addressed. Atira will not be considered for new funding calls or to manage new buildings until this is complete;
- suspending the renewal of all AWRS operating and operator agreements until the review is complete; and
- physically inspecting all Atira-operated buildings, beginning May 9, 2023.
To read the forensic review of BC Housing, visit:
To read the list of forensic review redactions, visit:
A backgrounder follows.