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Stonewalling democracy agency riles MPs Add to ...

A parliamentary committee appears to have reached the end of its patience with repeated stonewalling by a federal agency whose mandate includes democratic rights and accountability.

MPs on the Commons foreign affairs committee have “ordered” Montreal-based Rights & Democracy to provide an audit of the agency's books and a private security report by Monday – or face possible censure.

The committee formally “requested” the same documents two weeks ago – at least the fourth time this year it had asked – but has yet to get a response from the arms-length, government-funded body.

Gerard Latulippe, president of the embattled agency, and Aurel Braun, board chairman, have also been summoned.

“Mr. Latulippe and Mr. Braun have been ordered to appear on Dec. 16 and we've been ordered to produce the report by Dec. 13,” agency spokesman Stephane Bourgon said.

“That's what we hope to do, but there's still some legal concerns going on. In all likelihood, both reports will be delivered on the 13th.”

NDP committee member Paul Dewar noted that parliamentary supremacy was very publicly reaffirmed this year when the House of Commons demanded the release of Afghan detainee documents.

“If it's summoned from Parliament, you have to deliver,” he said. “In this case, it's a group that is actually accountable to the foreign affairs committee... They'll be in non-compliance if they don't [deliver]. You don't really have a choice here.”

Rights & Democracy has been embroiled in a nasty internal dispute for more than a year as Conservative-appointed board members have exercised their authority.

The agency's staunchly pro-Israel board repudiated a trio of small grants to Middle East rights groups that it did not like, then hired Deloitte and Touche last February to perform a forensic audit of the previous management's bookkeeping.

There's been very little daylight on the agency's internal workings since then.

The forensic audit was completed in August, and the foreign affairs committee also wants to see a private investigator's report into what appears to have been a personnel matter involving three fired managers.

Mr. Bourgon said a number of privacy issues are raised by the reports, including salaries of individuals, reports from people overseas, and “personal information from third parties.”

“All of these people have not consented to us giving out the report,” Mr. Bourgon said. “It's nothing more than protecting the liability of the board members and the president.”

Mr. Bourgon said Rights & Democracy is concerned the investigator's report will become public before next Thursday's examination for discovery in the lawsuit by the fired employees.

He said the audit and the investigator's report are linked.

“The position of Rights & Democracy is that both reports, they are very different, but they go hand in hand. You need to understand both reports to understand exactly what went on.”

Mr. Dewar said MPs have been waiting for months to get to the bottom of the agency's troubles and have lost patience with what he called “weasel words.”

“I have to say they have put up more barriers than one could ever have conjured,” he said. “Now we're hearing they have concerns about privacy? Well, if so, those are things we [on the committee] will determine, not them.”

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