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Fraud alleged over crisis fund

<p>A provincial housing program is being rapidly drained by $93,000 each weekday while the government’s own employees allege widespread fraud and abuse are likely to blame.</p>

Government employees say fake claims draining $7M housing program


A provincial housing program is being rapidly drained by $93,000 each weekday while the government’s own employees allege widespread fraud and abuse are likely to blame.





The Liberals are now demanding Alberta’s auditor general launch an investigation into the claims after $4.3 million of a $7-million fund has been distributed in only two months.





The Stelmach government created the Homeless and Eviction Prevention program in April to assist Albertans facing skyrocketing rent increases. It has since provided emergency funds to support over 5,000 families needing a home or facing eviction.





But two government employees allege that many of the applicants are fraudulent — and get away with it because the fund has few checks and balances to confirm eviction claims.





The inside sources, speaking to the media on the condition of anonymity, allege that supervisors told them to approve anyone who asks for money — even if they don’t have any documentation supporting their application. To receive funding, applicants are asked to provide identification, bank statements, and a letter from a landlord, but these documents are not mandatory, they claim.





The policy has resulted in applicants forging letters from landlords and collecting the cash themselves, the sources allege.





Lorelei Fiset-Cassidy, a government spokeswoman for the program, said the fund has been based on trust to prevent delays for Albertans facing emergencies, “but there are checks and balances in place.”





Employment Minister Iris Evans released a statement yesterday saying she will now ask internal auditors to review the fund and will hire more staff to verify submitted documents.





Dave Taylor, Liberal Shadow Housing Minister, has also filed a formal request with the auditor general to investigate the allegations.





When contacted by Metro, Auditor General Fred Dunn said the earliest he could investigate is November, but he’s sympathetic towards establishing a fund that purposely removes red tape for people facing a crisis.





“I can’t be critical of the government if the primary objective here is to help those that need the help,” he said.


 
 
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