Lots of handouts at AGM, but no discussion at all of restructuring plan
Cost-cutting talks sidelined at AGM
RANKIN INLET – Drowsy attendees at Nunavut Tunngavik's annual general meeting become momentarily animated when Paul Kaludjak, NTI's present, calls out raffle numbers during breaks.
"Good bingo!" he bellows, as he gives away chocolate, trinkets and Inuit art. Applause breaks out. Then the 46 members around the table in the high school gym settle down and return to the agenda.
Yet during the meeting, which stretched over five days last month, discussions about finance and other serious matters drift more than once towards last night's hockey match.
The whole ordeal costs, on average, beneficiaries nearly half a million dollars each year.
A plan exists to save money by restructuring NTI and regional Inuit associations.
This plan, prepared by NTI staff, was distributed to all delegates at the organization's AGM, held Nov. 27 to Nov. 30 in Rankin Inlet. But it wasn't discussed.
The plan starts by proposing to trim the number of attendees at the organization's AGM.
By the far the biggest cost associated with the meeting is airline tickets, followed by hotel rooms.
So more than $250,000 could be saved if only 22 members, rather than the usual 47, were sent to the AGM.
Or, more drastically, as much as $318,000 could be saved if only 16 members went to the AGM.
Of the 46 members who attended last week's meeting, only a handful spoke regularly.
NTI has done some modest cost-cutting this year, although this received little mention at the meeting.
Travel expenses decreased by 15 per cent over the past year, by holding meetings in regional centres such as Rankin Inlet, instead of smaller communities. That reverses a 10 per cent increase in travel costs in 2006.
Honoraria paid to board members have also decreased to $183,500 in 2007, from $237,500 in 2006.
And NTI got rid of several employees in 2007, such as their government liaison officer. Kaludjak said they're reviewing whether this, and other positions, are needed.
More money could be saved by having fewer members sit at board meetings, which are currently held four times a year, at a cost of more than $1.5 million.
Reduce the number of meetings to three, and cutting the number of board members from 10 to six, and NTI would save $314,000. Or, hold three meetings with five members and save $520,000.
NTI could save even more by getting rid of one, or both, of its vice-presidents.
If NTI had only one VP, it would save $463,000 each year in executive office costs. Another $69,000 would be saved for each election no longer held.
Or, if both VPs were axed, NTI would save more than $1 million in executive office costs, and $137,500 in election costs.
Office costs include executive salaries that range from $143,000 to $157,000 a year. On top of their salaries, all NTI employees earn fat northern allowance and vacation travel assistance benefits, as well as staff vehicles for each executive member.
More beneficiary money would be saved if NTI and regional Inuit associations laid off staff and got rid of overlapping departments, the plan suggests.
A report on the restructuring scheme includes no cost estimates for streamlining departments, but presents two plans for downsizing NTI. One would cut the number of employees from 104 to 90; the other would cut even deeper, to 78 employees.
Regional Inuit associations could do away with their legal, human resources, communications and finance departments entirely, the report suggests. These departments could then be managed centrally by NTI.
Information technology departments for all organizations should simply be out-sourced to a contractor, the report's moderate and extreme options suggest.
And NTI's wildlife department could be merged with the Nunavut Inuit Wildlife Secretariat, under a more extreme cost-cutting plan.
The plan even suggests that regional Inuit associations adopt identical policies to NTI in order to save money – a proposal that likely won't be popular with regional presidents.
Programs offered by Inuit organizations would also be adjusted under the plan.
Less would be spent on flying the bodies of deceased persons back to the territory, graveyard visits, and hunter support programs.
More would be spent on sending Nunavut's kids abroad, youth activities, and giving Nunavut Sivuniksavut, the training program for young Inuit in Ottawa, a big funding increase, to $175,000 from $85,000.
Elder benefits, used to supplement the Canada Pension Plan, would be kept at the same levels under all options.
NTI may even decide to stop funding the Inuit Heritage Trust, which costs $800,000 each year, and get rid of community liaison officers, which cost $2 million a year.
But none of this was discussed at the AGM.
Kaludjak said in an interview that he hoped to vote on the matter at the AGM, but presidents of the regional Inuit associations wanted more time.
Instead, the plan, which has already been discussed by NTI's board several times, will be brought up next in June 2008.