The Provincial Auditor released its report on their special investigation into the Global Transportation Hub land scandal Thursday. The report highlights a number of serious concerns including gross mismanagement surrounding the land purchase and leaves a number of concerning questions still to be answered.
“We certainly appreciate and welcome the good work done by the Auditor on this cpomplicated and mirky scandal,” said NDP Leader Trent Wotherspoon. “What’s clear in the report is that the Premier and the Sask. Party misled the people of Saskatchewan and wasted millions of dollars in the process.”
Among the several concerns found by the Auditor was the fact that the Sask. Party didn’t even prepare a business case on the three major land acquisitions, had no process for recording and keeping documents, and had no clear strategy for acquiring the land.
Alarmingly, the report also blows apart the Premier’s weak defence to this point. The Premier had been hiding and also referencing the sellers land appraisal to publicly justify purchasing land for $103,000 per acre – a price far more expensive than other land in the area. But, the report reveals that the Sask. Party and the Premier never even reviewed the apparaisal before inking the deal.
“This is a deal that’s wasted millions of dollars,” Wotherspoon said. “Instead of coming clean, the Sask. Party has dug in its heels and has resisted, at every moment, to reveal the facts around this deal, but now we are seeing parts of what was being hidden and that the government grossly overpaid for this land. We also now know that the Minister responsible for the file knew about the need for the land prior to the purchase and sale of it by the two businessmen who flipped it, and it has been reported that he had connections with at least one of those two men who made millions off the deal. The Sask. Party voted down the NDPs amendment to the motion to have these relationships fully investigated by the Auditor. It is clear, on many fronts that further investigation is needed.”
The NDP is calling for a judicial inquiry, which would examine whether a criminal breach of public trust occurred. That is a criminal offence in which a public official, intentionally or through willful neglect, uses their office for a purpose other than for the public good, including dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent purposes.