Premier vows action on alleged crisis fund scam
Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach says the province will pursue and prosecute anyone who’s swindled money from a new government program designed to assist residents facing eviction or homelessness.
“Anybody who rips off the Alberta taxpayer, we’re going to go after them hard,” he said. “It’s there to assist those families that either recently moved to Alberta or are facing eviction.”
Two government employees went to the media earlier this week alleging widespread fraud in the Homeless and Eviction Prevention program, claiming they were told by supervisors to hand over money with few questions asked. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, they allege many residents have taken advantage of the program’s few checks and balances, leading to $4.3 million of a $7-million fund to be drained in only two months.
An applicant is asked to provide identification, bank statements and a letter from a landlord, but the whistleblowers claim they’ve been told to ignore those rules and accept applications without supporting documentation.
Employment Minister Iris Evans has ordered an internal audit into the matter, and Stelmach committed to publicly release the results of that report at a press conference held outside his legislature office yesterday.
“We’re certainly accountable to Alberta taxpayers and we’ll release all the information to the public once it’s done,” he said.
But New Democrat MLA Ray Martin, who was a member of the government’s housing task force, said the fund has been poorly managed. “The fund is half-gone already, so they should start to do the right thing and follow a housing policy that makes some sense.”
The province’s task force recommended temporary rent caps and to limit the fund to only cover security and utility deposits, but both recommendations were ignored, he said.