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B.C. government orders investigation into carbon tax grant process

Investigation to focus on whether grants being awarded fairly after allegations arise.
British Columbia’s auditor general Michael Pickup as well as Comptroller General Carl Fischer will be investigating MNP’s role in the administration of the two grant programs offered through CleanBC following allegations of a kick-back scheme. (Canadian Press file photo)

B.C.’s Auditor-General and Comptroller General will be investigating an accounting firm’s role in the administration of two programs funded through the carbon tax.

Energy Minister Josie Osborne ordered the investigation into MNP Monday (April 8) after receiving what she only described as “new information” from an undisclosed source about the accounting firm and its role in administering the Commercial Vehicle Innovation Challenge and the Advanced Research and Commercialization grants.

Osborne said MNP won’t administer those grants for the duration of the investigation. An interim report from the Auditor-General is due within 90 days with the final becoming public no later than Sept. 1.

The decision marks a reversal from last week, when the government used its majority to twice reject calls from the opposition to ask the Auditor-General for an investigation.

BC United requested a probe into the CleanBC Go Electric Program (which includes the ARC and CVIC programs) with a “view to examining any potential conflict of interest relating to program administrators charging success fees to successful applicants who use their advisory services.”

Merritt-based Edison Motors — B.C.’s only company manufacturing electric semi-trucks — had first raised concerns about MNP’s role in the process.

MNP said in a statement issued before Osborne’s formal announcement that it cannot comment on specific grant applications for privacy reasons.

“We are aware of an allegation that one of our teams working in the province of B.C. in our grant management service line acted in the capacity as both the administrator and grant

application consultant on the CleanBC grant program,” it reads. “These allegations are false and misleading.”

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The statement said MNP has policies and procedures to address potential conflicts of interest.

“MNP’s policies and procedures prohibit team members from providing grant writing services for the programs we administer,” it reads. “Our program administration work on behalf of CleanBC is no different.”

The statement adds that MNP is committed to “full transparency and accountability for every public program” administrated by the company. “(We) welcome a government-initiated program review.”

Osborne said the investigations will focus on whether MNP followed the rules.

“So in the case of these two grant programs, not only is a company like MNP administering the grant programs on behalf of government not permitted to ask for or request any kind of consulting fee or lobbying fee, but any grant dollars that are awarded are not permitted to be used for any kind of fee like that,” Osborne said.

“That’s why the Auditor-General and the Comptroller General will undertake their review because we want to make sure this is fair. It needs to be fair for all of the applicants and British Columbians want to make sure there is confidence in these grant programs.”

Chace Barber, founder and chief executive officer of Edison Motors, said he welcomes the investigation, but would like to see it go further. “I’m not after MNP, I’m not trying to go after MNP,” Barber said. “I’m just looking at the government programs and the way they are being run is not very good and that is what I am trying to highlight.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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