Wed. Dec 6th, 2023

Ethics Commissioner examines conflict of interest allegations against Annette Verschuren.

Subjected by an investigation, the president of the Board of Directors of a Federal Foundation resigns

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Chair of the Board of Directors of Sustainable Development Technology Canada, Annette Verschuren. (Archive photo)

  • Daniel Leblanc (View profile)Daniel Leblanc

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The president of the board of directors of a federal foundation leaves the ship in full turmoil, a few days after the announcement that she was the subject of #x27;an investigation by the ethics commissioner.

Appointed by the Liberal government to head Sustainable Development Technologies Canada (SDTC) in 2019, Annette Verschuren has just announced her departure on December 1 to the Canadian Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology. x27;Industrie, François-Philippe Champagne.

The latter was strongly criticized by MPs from all political parties after confirming that she participated to the approval of more than $200,000 in grants to a private firm she runs.

In 2020 and 2021, as she confirmed before a parliamentary committee, Annette Verschuren proposed a motion to provide additional funding to companies that already had funding agreements with SDTC. The purpose of the total funding of $40 million was to help businesses financially survive the problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The move brought an additional $217,000 in funding to NRStor, an energy storage company she has led since 2012. Before the committee, Annette Verschuren confirmed that she receives an annual salary of $120,000 of this company.

In response to a request from the Conservative Party, Ethics Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein confirmed last week that he launched an investigation to determine whether or not Annette Verschuren had placed herself in a position of conflict of interest.

In response to questions from MEPs on this subject, Annette Verschuren said she had received a legal opinion which validated her decision in this matter.

The reason she didn't have to recuse herself, she explained, was that her firm was part of a group of around 100 companies who received the same level of additional funding from SDTC during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NRStor, in this context, had not benefited from preferential treatment, she noted.

TDDC finances small and medium-sized businesses in the field of environmental technologies. The organization has a mandate to distribute $1 billion in federal government funding over five years.

The foundation was the target of a whistleblower complaint earlier this year, in connection with its management of human resources and public funds. A report from the firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton noted several failures, including in terms of managing conflicts of interest.

In his resignation letter , Annette Verschuren noted, however, that the firm found no clear evidence of embezzlement or misconduct on the part of SDTC.

Continuous improvement is the foundation of any high-performance organization, and these evaluations have provided useful recommendations for improving procedures, which we wholeheartedly accept. reserve. We can always do better, she wrote.

SDTC President and CEO Leah Lawrence resigned on November 10.

As we can see in the media reports, the testimony before House of Commons committees and the surrounding controversy, it is clear that there is had a sustained and malicious campaign to undermine my leadership, she said in a letter to her board. This calls into question my ability to lead the organization and places me in an untenable situation. However, I want this organization to succeed.

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