NWT fires Fort Simpson housing-authority board

By Geraldine Grones

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation (NWTHC) has dissolved the board overseeing the Fort Simpson Housing Authority, fired the authority’s manager, and appointed a corporation employee to administer the authority.

NWTHC said that the decision was based on the board and the manager’s failure to address deficiencies identified in the latest audit by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

Tom Williams, NWTHC’s president, said that auditors found the board was running a deficit and that there were “governance problems” in the way housing programs were being administered in the village.

"I can't really get into the specifics, but there were obviously some irregularities in how administration was happening," Williams said, specifying that the irregularities included delays in contractor payments and procurement issues. "The auditors raised it as a concern. The Office of the Auditor General is looking after the public purse, and we take those concerns seriously. We gave an opportunity to the board to come up with a plan to fix it, and what they provided was insufficient."

However, Muaz Hassan, a former director of the housing authority, believes that the dissolution of the authority’s board was the result of a personality conflict between a housing corporation official and the board’s manager. He said that the appointment of an administrator to take over for the Fort Simpson board shows that, to NWTHC, boards are no more than “window dressing.”

"There's no difference between how the [government of the Northwest Territories] handles it and any dictatorship in the Third World — 'If you don't do it the way I want it done, I will fire you,'" Hassan said.

Williams said that out of the local housing authorities across the territory, NWTHC identified problems with only one. He said that while NWTHC is administering local housing in Fort Simpson, it will be business as usual for employees, contractors and those relying on NWTHC’s programs, according to a CBC report.

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