QIA moves to secure robust fiscal health

Detailed internal budgetary practices and procedures are adopted by the board during annual general meeting in Iqaluit.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DWANE WILKIN
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Rigid new spending guidelines approved by the Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s board of directors this week aim to make the organiztion more financially accountable to beneficiaries.

The new spending protocol is part of a broad set of financial and budgetary procedures developed over the last year to reign in QIA’s operating expenses. They were adopted unanimously by QIA directors during the association’s annual general meeting in Iqaluit.

Directors spent most of the day Monday and part of Tuesday going over financial issues facing the association, which will head into the 1998-99 fiscal year with a budget of $3.5 million. Well over 90 per cent of the QIA’s total revenues are expected to come from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.

Acting secretary-treasurer Pudloo Mingeriak reported a $338,505 operating surplus in QIA’s general fund for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1997 a decline of $184,495 in the surplus from the previous year.

Negotiations for an Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreement with Parks Canada alone cost the QIA $625,000 last year. The association’s economic development fund was reported to have reserves of $498,799.

Directors listened intently as finance director Peter Ma outlined the new budgetary procedures, designed to ensure the further financial health of the organization.

First of all, each budgeted expenditure from now on must be formally approved by designated authorities, who will vary according to the amount of the expenditure.

All travel arrangements must be pre-authorized; even long-distance telephone calls will be closely tracked by QIA’s finance department.

“In other words, you can’t decide to take off to Hawaii without someone’s approval,” quipped Ma.

From now on, all spending between $50,000 and $250,000 must be authorized by QIA’s executive committee. Any expenditure between $250,000 and $1 million will require the approval of the entire board of directors. And the association’s membership at large will have to be consulted for expenditures that exceed $1 million.

Close attention to QIA’s budget has never been more important, now that the organization is fully staffed with 17 employees, said president Lazarus Arreak, who campaigned last fall on a platform of fiscal responsibility.

“It also makes us more efficent,” he said.

Among other things, the new financial policies prohibit QIA employees from authorizing expenditures “from which (they) personally can benefit, directly or indirectly.”

Also, long-distance telephone cards, “should not be used for personal telephone calls,” according to the new written policy. “Such use is considered fraudulent and subject to the same disciplinary measures as any other fraudulent use of Qikiqtani Inuit Association’s funds.”

The financial policies will be extended to QIA’s subsidiaries, the Kakivak Association and Qikiqtaaluk Corp., and apply equally to elected community representatives.

Travel expenses will also be closely monitored and tightly controlled in the future. Use of chartered aircraft, for instance, instead of a scheduled flight, will be permitted only if it can be shown that under the specific circumstances, it is more economical.

Furthermore, a cost-benefit analysis and approval for the use of chartered aircraft must be documented in writing by the appropriate department head.

In his own brief appearance before the board, Philip Clarke of the accounting firm Mackay Landau, told directors that QIA’s financial reporting practices had “improved significantly” from last year.

Though few members of the public at large turned out for the meeting, “we take what seems to be a lack of interest …as an indication that people are satisfied with the way things are going,” said QIA president Arreak.

Here are some other financial highlights contained in QIA’s non-consolidated financial statements for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1997:

* Total expenditure on salaries and benefits increased by $52,726 to a new high of nearly $1.24 million, which was still less than the $1.4 million budgeted. Salaries and benefits account for more than 40 per cent of QIA’s budget.

* Office and administration expenses were up by $30,000, as were expenditures on professional fees, which jumped from $77,153 1995/96 to $100,210 in 1996/97.

* Staff travel expenses totalled $310,129 last year, compared to $86,821 in 1995/96, but were still lower than had been budgeted.

* Spending by QIA on youth projects increased significantly, from $38,081 in 1995/96 to $228,734 in 1996/97. QIA has allocated $100,000 to youth projects in its 1998-99 budget.

* Honoraria and board expenses were reduced by half, to $230,180 in 1997 from $477,464 in 1996.

* QIA has earmarked $60,000 to deal spcifically with women’s issues.

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