Almost a year past the deadline, the audited financial statements of the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) for 2021-2022 are nearly ready to be posted online.

“When they’re approved, we’ll put it on the website,” said MCK chief John Canatonquin, who is on the finance portfolio.

He said extenuating circumstances held up the completion of the reports.

“There was nothing to hide,” he said. “It’s just because with COVID, it delayed everything; even the auditor was not available and so on. Because of the ERU (Emergency Response Unit), there were some accusations about fraud, so they spent more time on that.”

According to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) on Monday, the department has received the audited consolidated financial statements for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, but they are considered incomplete.

“We are in communication with the band’s representatives to let them know what is missing for the audited consolidated financial statements to be considered complete and are working with them to resolve this situation,” said ISC spokesperson Carolane Gratton.

Canatonquin said his understanding is that there were some pages missing but that the finance department has been sending them to ISC.

“They should have everything,” he said.

First Nations are required by the 2013 First Nations Financial Transparency Act (FNFTA) to make audited consolidated financial statements and a schedule of remuneration and expenses – which reports chiefs’ pay – available online within 120 days of the fiscal year, which ends March 31. This means the outstanding 2021-2022 financial documents were mandated to be published by July 29, 2022.

The law permits the government to withhold monies or even terminate funding agreements when First Nations are in breach of their financial reporting obligations. However, in response to concerns from First Nations leaders, in 2015 ISC stopped enforcing discretionary measures under the law.

“This was to enable the government of Canada to engage in discussions on transparency and mutual accountability, and these discussions continue in the context of a new fiscal relationship that is based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership,” said Gratton.

Regardless of the delay, Canatonquin characterized the community’s finances as being relatively healthy. He said while some departments may have had a shortfall, the 2021-2022 statements show no overall deficit.

“We’re doing much better than before. We’re going the right way,” he said.

“We’ve got a good manager who’s doing their job, respecting the budget, and so on.”

Canatonquin said an auditor was on site this week in relation to the 2022-2023 financial statements that are currently being prepared.

He suggested these should be finished by the end of September, just a couple months after this year’s deadline, which is coming up next week. The MCK should then be back on track to meet the deadline in subsequent years, he said.

By Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 21, 2023 at 11:52

This item reprinted with permission from   The Eastern Door   Kahnawake, Quebec
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