Housing Authority’s Conflict of Interest Processes Need Improvement: AG
January 17 -- The Province needs to ensure conflicts of interest are avoided, declared, and addressed to maintain public confidence in the administration of provincially owned housing, says Auditor General Kim Adair.
Following up on information provided to the office during the audit of Government Owned Public Housing (released in June 2022), the Auditor General conducted a performance audit of Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority at the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing.
The audit found Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority’s conflict-of-interest processes require improvement. The Director, the most senior employee at the Authority, was in conflict prior to, and after, the awarding of security services contracts. The Director failed to disclose conflicts in accordance with internal and provincial conflict of interest policies.
“Conflicts of interest should be appropriately avoided, disclosed, and mitigated to maintain public confidence,” says Auditor General Kim Adair.
The Director oversaw the largest housing authority in the province, responsible for more than 4,000 housing units at 90 properties throughout Halifax Regional Municipality and Hants County.
The Director was involved in the tendering for security services worth over $1 million – most of which were subsequently awarded to a contractor with ties to the Director.
Security services are essential to thousands of public housing tenants because they provide an official presence, resolve situations, dispatch authorities and report incidents to management.
The audit found that the Director sold personal property to the contractor during the tendering of the security services contract, and again after the awarding of the contract.
The new audit makes four recommendations, including that the Department of Municipal Affairs and Housing direct the Housing Authority to add conflict-of-interest language and disclosure requirements in all public tenders. The department agrees with all of the recommendations and has already taken steps to implement, and in some cases resolve, them.
Putting safeguards in place is an important step, especially since the Province’s recent creation of a new Crown corporation to oversee its public housing stock, says Adair.
“Conflict of interest disclosures are necessary to ensure fairness to all bidders in a procurement process.”
The Auditor General’s role is to audit the finances and activities of the Government of Nova Scotia. We provide independent assurance to the people of Nova Scotia that public money is spent properly and provides value. The office produces audits that examine how well the provincial government accounts for the resources entrusted to it, and how well it manages its operations.