Nunavut NNI tribunal lacks transparency, MLA complains
Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak says dispute resolution body should report publicly
The Government of Nunavut’s newly-amended Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti policy, unveiled in Iqaluit May 12, drew sharp criticism from Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak on May 30, the first day of the spring 2016 sitting of the third session of Nunavut’s fourth legislative assembly.
The NNI policy is the GN’s tool for complying with Article 24 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement which says the GN must help Inuit-owned businesses in the Nunavut settlement area win government contracts.
The GN and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. officials have been working over the last four years to draft the amended policy following a report by the Auditor General of Canada in 2012.
In a statement, Angnakak acknowledged “solid progress has been achieved” over the previous NNI policy.
But she added that a newly created tribunal — established to hear grievances and replacing the current NNI appeals board — lacks transparency and is at risk of having “no real teeth at all” in the eyes of the public and the business community.
“It is simply unacceptable that the new NNI policy does not require the new NNI tribunal to report publicly on its work,” Angnakak said, urging Economic Development Minister Monica Ell-Kanayuk to rethink that part of the policy.
“Although the current NNI contracting appeals board is not perfect, at least we know what recommendations it makes to the government by way of an annual report,” Angnakak said.
Ell-Kanayuk said she’ll look into the legislation and report back to the assembly.
Angnakak added that although the new NNI policy states the GN will implement all recommendations made by the new tribunal to “the greatest extent possible,” one provision states the government could forgo recommendations “for reasons of sound procurement management and public policy,” she said.
“In other words, maybe its saying, we’ll do what you suggest unless we don’t want to,” Angnakak summarized.
“At the very least, businesses and the public need to be provided with a much clearer explanation of what the government means by the language in this section.”
Ell-Kanayuk responded that “the NNI tribunal shall be established to hear and decide on complaints regarding the application of the NNI policy,” when asked by Angnakak on the provision’s existence.
The policy states the tribunal will consist of two GN representatives and three representatives recommended by NTI, each serving three-year terms.
Angnakak said she is disappointed that the proposed tribunal does not reserve a seat for a member nominated by Nunavut’s business community.
“The revised policy does not recognize the importance of having a business background on the part of the tribunal’s membership,” she said.
El-Kanayuk replied that all members of the tribunal must possess business knowledge as a requirement for the position.
“The tribunal will need to have knowledge in areas such as awarding contracts or procurement law and [be] aware of the procedures of that organization and they will need to have knowledge in private business,” the minister said.
“Priority will be given to people who already work in such positions in Nunavut.”
Angnakak said she’s optimistic that “there is still time to do some fine tuning,” as the amended NNI policy won’t come into effect until April 1, 2017.
The legislative assembly’s brief spring sitting is scheduled to continue until June 8.