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International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda is escorted past journalists after testifying before a Commons committee investigating contempt charges against her on March 18, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)
International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda is escorted past journalists after testifying before a Commons committee investigating contempt charges against her on March 18, 2011. (CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS)

Tories produce pair of CIDA memos to back up Bev Oda Add to ...

Opposition MPs who grilled Bev Oda at the procedures at a Commons committee Friday seemed skeptical when she said recommendations made by bureaucrats within the Canadian International Development Agency were often overruled with the insertion of a "not."

The International Co-operation Minister was trying to explain to the committee that it was entirely normal that her staff would write the word "not" on a funding application document, as it did with the church-backed aid group Kairos, to overturn a recommendation form CIDA staff.

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"It's a hell of a way to run a business," NDP MP Pat Martin quipped.

He and the Liberal members of the committee repeatedly asked CIDA president Margaret Biggs if this is the normal way of doing things - a question that Ms. Biggs deflected over and over again.

But under pressure from Liberal MP David McGuinty, Ms. Oda agreed to produce examples of other grants that had been rejected in a similar fashion. If the opposition MPs thought they would have to wait long for those examples, they were wrong.

The government provided them on Friday afternoon.

During her testimony, Ms. Oda said she realizes in retrospect the answers she gave a Commons committee about her rejection of funding for Kairos could have been more clear.

"I take fully responsibility for the confusion created and I apologize for that," Ms. Oda told the procedure and House affairs committee Friday morning. "Initially I didn't understand how my answers were creating confusion."

Ms. Oda has taken responsibility for ordering the word "not" inserted into a document from the Canadian International Development Agency, thereby reversing a recommendation by department officials that the minister offer $7-million in funding to Kairos. But, during a committee appearance in December, she said she did not know who put the word on the document.

The minister explained she spent some months deliberating the recommendation of the grant's approval, which had come from her department, and then called her former chief of staff, Stephanie Machel, to say she had decided to reject the application. Ms. Machel inserted the word "not" into the recommendation and someone else in the office used an autopen to replicate the minister's signature.

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