Nunavut public lender moving toward transparency: minister
NBCC lends millions in public dollars but does not reveal publicly to whom
Nunavut’s economic development minister, Monica Ell-Kanayuk, says she expects that the territory’s arms-length lending agency, the Nunavut Business Credit Corp., will eventually follow through on requests by MLAs to disclose the names of its loan recipients.
“I have discussed it with [the NBCC] and I expect that, moving forward, the recommendations will be upheld,” Ell-Kanayuk said in a response to Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak during question period Oct. 19 at Nunavut’s legislative assembly.
“This takes time… and the [NBCC] board is still reviewing it.”
In a report tabled November 2015, the Standing Committee on Oversight of Government Operations and Public Accounts recommended the NBCC release the names of loan recipients, citing both the public need for transparency as well as the NBCC’s own loan application form—which requires all applicants to consent to public disclosure.
The report argued that the money being lent is “ultimately public monies and should be subject to the same level of transparency and public disclosure as any other form of financial assistance provided by the government.”
The standing committee also cited the Northwest Territories Business Development and Investment Corp. which serves a similar function to the NBCC in that territory and which makes its list of loans recipient public, with no ill effect.
Nunavut’s information and privacy commissioner, Elaine Keenan-Bengts, is quoted in that same report, saying “if I were asked to do a review recommendation on this, I would recommend that the names of the corporations and the amount they received be disclosed.”
Keenan-Bengts reiterated those statements at her recent appearance in Nunavut’s legislature last September.
But in its official response to the standing committee—tabled last March—Nunavut’s Department of Economic Development and Transportation said it was reluctant to release the names of NBCC clients.
“While the government acknowledges its responsibility to be accountable for public monies, it remains concerned about the implications of releasing such information, which may be considered sensitive given the territory’s relatively small private sector and without advance notice to recipients,” the response read.
Now, Ell-Kanayuk says the NBCC board is deliberating how to proceed with the disclosure of its clients’ identities.
“They are still reviewing the matter on how to let all their clients know that in the future they will have to publicly disclose their information,” Ell-Kanayuk said.
It is unclear, by her statements in the legislature, if Ell-Kanayuk means that all current NBCC client names will be released or whether the disclosure will be reserved for new clients in the future.
As of March 31, 2016, the NBCC loaned 57 clients a total of $21 million, according to statistics provided by the lending agency.
In April, David Wiseman, a Rankin Inlet taxi operator, who defaulted on more than $1.1 million in NBCC loans, declared bankruptcy.
Around the same time, Wiseman also defaulted on at least $100,000 in loans to the Kivalliq Business Development Centre, a regional lending agency that is financed through the federal Community Futures program.
Wiseman is currently facing criminal charges for defrauding his insurance company in 2013.
In 2007, the Auditor General of Canada, who discovered extensive mismanagement of funds and incompetent leadership, dragged the NBCC into the public eye with a highly critical report on its lending practices.