'Troubling' audit at PIB

The Penticton Indian Band is facing troubling revelations from a recent outside review and audit of its businesses.

The newly-branded economic development arm of the PIB, the K'uL Group, has conducted an audit of financial statements and records over the last few years to get a feel for the current situation. 

"What our review has uncovered is troubling. We are mid-way through a full audit and already have some significant concerns that have existed for a very long time," reads a report released March 20. 

Those concerns include overstated earnings by Coyote Cruises when they actually have a deficit of $76,000 and GST penalties in excess of $17,000 over the last five years, plus "unauthorized credit cards and unaccounted spending in excess of $9,000."

The report also highlighted $887,000 in overstated profit for the 2018 fiscal year by Westhills Aggregates, as well as "questionable subcontractor arrangements, significant health and safety risks to employees and band members and the risk of being shut down," according to the report. 

The CEO of the K'uL group said while the report indicates some issues, it's the first step to improvement. 

"The community, as well as chief and council, had asked us to make that analysis public, and to share that, because I think they'd historically struggled to get information from some of the businesses," Jonathan Baynes said. 

"So my job was to do the analysis and share it all with the community, and we shared it and said look, you have some very, very strong businesses and there's been some challenges in the past, but it's better that we let people know where we're growing from."

Baynes said the community has overwhelmingly voiced support since the report was released. 

"You've got a few people who are quite angry and have issues and stuff with the changes that have taken place, but it's a really nice band to be a part of and most people are appreciative of the honesty," Baynes said. "This is not a witch hunt, this is really just a matter of discerning where we are and what we can build from."

He added that the findings don't seem unusual to him after a 15 years doing business transformation work. 

"I guarantee if I did this at the City of Penticton I'd have very similar results. This is pretty standard from a business transformation process, there is no other way to do that," Baynes said. "The part that's slightly different is the fact that we've been asked by the community to be very transparent and to share this information, often this work is done but it's not shared, that's the difference."

The audit is part of a three-year plan, Baynes said, with the first year dedicated to making sure all the businesses are on solid ground and making plans to correct any issues, as they have now done. 

K'uL Group has received a $10,000 grant to upgrade the Coyote Cruises brand and "outstanding PST, GST, WCB and payroll remittances have been resolved," according to the report. 

"The second year is really focusing on building capacity and building up the teams so we can accelerate our growth, and a lot of that growth is going to be coming in the third year," Baynes said. "It's largely focused around developing capacity and building strong teams and strong partnerships."

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