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Another Special Prosecutor, More Questions for Campbell

Liberal appointee Doug Walls has quit his powerful post, his past business dealings under investigation by a special prosecutor. He leaves a ministry facing big cuts, bigger questions.

David Schreck 18 Jan 2004TheTyee.ca

Late on Friday afternoon, the time for "taking out the garbage", the Campbell government announced the appointment of another special prosecutor. This time, the investigation involves Doug Walls, the Premier's relative by marriage, a former President of a provincial Liberal constituency association, and the acting CEO of the Interim Community Living Association.

Walls resigned as acting CEO following the appointment of the special prosecutor.

Sean Holman, publisher of Public Eye Magazine, deserves credit for months of work on this story. His article in the Times Colonist and in the Vancouver Sun on Saturday, January 17, 2004, may be just the first chapter in another scandal for the Campbell government. According to Holman, "In 2002 Walls received $63,823 in untendered contracts over a six-month period to work on the transition process."

A letter dated January 23, 2003 from David Driscoll, Chair of the Interim Community Living Association, to Chris Haynes, Deputy Minister of Children and Family Development, confirmed Walls' appointment, although that letter also said his title would remain "Senior Consultant". Why didn't the Association publicly announce Walls' appointment as Interim CEO, and why did they seem to hide the fact through the use of a different job title? Doug Walls worked as a project manager with the CareNET Technology Society at 246 - 1959 152nd Street, White Rock. Gordon Hogg's constituency office is in suite 130 in the same building. The Word file of Driscoll's letter was widely circulated; its properties page shows the author of the letter as Doug Walls working for CareNET Technology Society.

Community Living cuts, chaos

"Community Living" is the name given to services provided to about 9,200 adults who are "developmentally disadvantaged" (with IQs under 70); they previously resided in institutions such as Woodlands. This year the budget for services for Community Living was over $630 million; government's plan calls for that to be reduced to $512 million next year, although the numbers are constantly revised.

On December 23rd the Ministry's website provided a report from a committee chaired by Vince Collins, assessing the Ministry's ability to move services to the Interim Authority. It described a chaotic situation and recommended that the transfer of responsibility to the Interim Authority for over $500 million in services be postponed unless a comprehensive management plan is implemented, an accountability framework is adopted and the service delivery model is determined.

Any focus on accountability, in view of revelations concerning the awarding of contracts without bids and hiring without competitions, makes it clear that the Interim Authority is way off the required timeline for assuming responsibility for service delivery by June 2004.

Audit came up clean CKNW reported on the resignation of Walls as CEO of the Interim Authority and said "Driscoll says they became aware of the allegations in December and ordered an independent audit that came up clean. At the time it chose not to remove Walls."

Why did the Interim Authority think it necessary to conduct an audit, and what was and was not included in the terms of the audit?

It is time for the Auditor General to take a close look at the Interim Community Living Authority. It is also time for the Campbell government to rescind the cuts it is making to the Auditor General's budget so he can thoroughly examine how political friends and insiders are handling public funds.

Adequate screening of appointees?

When two ministerial assistants became the focus of search warrants served on the legislature, Attorney General Geoff Plant mused about the need to tighten screening procedures for the hiring of political aids. When the Interim Authority for Community Living appointed its Interim CEO, Mr. Walls was already the subject of court action with respect to his involvement in a Prince George car dealership.

The Campbell government has as many questions to answer with respect to this investigation as it does with respect to the raid on the legislature.

What kind of executive search did the Interim Community Living Authority do for its key staff?

What criteria for conflict of interest related to payments from related organizations have been established by the Interim Authority?

How will the appointment of a special prosecutor and resignation of the acting CEO affect the ability of the Interim Authority to implement the cuts to services planned by Hogg?

What other contracts were awarded without tender?

Will Hogg accept Ministerial responsibility for the actions of the Authority, and will Campbell take responsibility for his Minister?

David Schreck is a political analyst whose Web site is Strategicthoughts.com  [Tyee]

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