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City audit sheds light on Pride’s darkest period

Organizers say city audit is outdated; repairs well underway

WOOF. Pride committee organizers are no longer in the doghouse, but they aren't expecting any biscuits just yet.

The financial state of the Pride Committee of Ottawa is in a much better place than the “serious financial difficulty” reported in the city’s audit, released Jun 11.

The audit of Capital Pride was completed almost a year ago, but was released in the annual report of the auditor general of the City of Ottawa.

The audit, which Pride treasurer Alan Chaffe says is now outdated, listed two-pages worth of recommendations, and suggested that the board prepare a five-year plan in order to raise revenue and reimburse suppliers, including the City of Ottawa.

The recommendations stem from Pride’s fiscal year ending Sep 2006, a period that saw Capital Pride’s closest scrape with bankruptcy to date. Since then, the Pride committee kept a tight lid on expenses, reducing their debt by $70,000 in 2007 and beginning the long and painful process of paying back $130,000 of unpaid bills.

The auditor’s recommendations include:

* Pride boardmenbers should ensure all revenues from events and promotional items sold are received by the organization.

* Volunteers who have access to the organization’s money should be properly supervised.

* During the audit, copies of invoices or statements to support accounts payable that were requested should have been provided.

* Pride board minutes should be signed and dated by the directors.

* The Pride Committee received a GST refund for previous years. Since the organization is not-for-profit and government grants are less than 50 percent of revenues, the Pride Committee should not have applied to receive those refunds.

In a letter to the auditor general in October of last year, former Pride chair Gordon Boissonneault describes the audit as a “low point” in the organization’s financial position, and says they would make a steady improvement in years to come.

Marion Steele, a current Pride boardmember, says they’ve been following the recommendations, including the preparation of a five-year.

“We’ve already adopted a lot of new policies, and now we have excellent financial people working for us,” says Steele.

The report paints a vivid picture of a financial crisis, one that Steele blames on the Pride boards from 2000 to 2004.

“During those years, Bank Street businesses were running things like sales tents, and there were no good agreements happening between those business owners and Pride,” says Steele. “Between that and discrepancies on the board and members not getting along, we started to slide down a financial slope.”

But since then, Pride has turned a corner, says Chaffe.

“It’s important to keep in mind that this is an old audit report, even though the public is only seeing it now,” says Chaffe. “We’re in a much better position now than we were then.”

Chaffe says that the organization has already paid $5,000 out of the $50,000 it owes the City, and expects the full debt to be paid by 2014.

Last year’s Pride Festival generated a final surplus of just under $12,000, from which $8,500 was paid to debtors. So, it looks like Pride will be making auditors a lot happier next time around.

Talks about the Pride Committee audit were on the agenda for the Jun 11 city council meeting, but discussions have been put on hold until the next council meeting Jun 25.

A number of reports, including the one made to the Pride Committee, are being referred to standing committees who will review the audits presented, and make recommendations.