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Province, BC Housing taking action on recommendations from forensic investigation

May 8, 2023 at 10:58 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Under the guidance of the new Board of Commissioners, BC Housing has developed a comprehensive response plan to the 2022 external review and the 2023 forensic investigation that addresses the major findings and recommendations. BC Housing will address all 20 recommendations from the forensic investigation report by spring 2024. Outlined below is progress to date:

Recommendations and Corresponding Actions

1. Recommendation: consider strengthening the current conflict of interest (COI) policies to explicitly prohibit a COI of this magnitude from recurring in the future.

  • Action (complete): incorporated into BC Housing’s updated Standards of Conduct Policy

2. Recommendation: consider updating the Standards of Conduct to clarify that employees, including members of Executive Committee (ExCom), are prohibited from enabling others in the organization to act on their declared COI’s. This would include an obligation for BC Housing employees, including ExCom members, to report COI violations directly to the Board of Commissioners.

  • Action (complete): incorporated into BC Housing’s updated Standards of Conduct Policy
  • Action (underway): implementation plan to include strengthened annual training, communication from Board Chair to all employees, and oath swearing by senior leadership

3. Recommendation: consider implementing an anonymous whistleblower hotline to provide employees the opportunity to report on matters of noncompliance with the Standards of Conduct, including the COI policies, and declarations made thereunder. The Standards of Conduct should then be updated to refer to the whistleblower hotline.

  • Action (complete): whistleblower hotline has been established and training has been implemented
  • Action (complete): incorporated into BC Housing’s updated Standards of Conduct Policy
  • Action (underway): Board Chair communication on standards of conduct to reinforce whistleblower protections is underway; CEO communication is complete.

4. Recommendation: consider implementing annual, organization-wide COI training, including continued annual signoff of the Standards of Conduct. Consider implementing annual signoffs of the COl declarations, as applicable.

  • Action (complete): incorporated into BC Housing’s updated Standards of Conduct Policy.
  • Action (underway): mandatory standards sign off for all BC Housing employees by May 2023
  • Action (underway): sign off through oath taking by senior leadership by May 2023

5. Recommendation: consider implementing a process to ensure that the Standards of Conduct are reviewed by the Board of Commissioners at least annually and updated, where necessary.

  • Action (complete): incorporated into BC Housing’s updated Standards of Conduct Policy
  • Action (complete): updated Board of Commissioners Terms of Reference approved

6. Recommendation: consider requiring Providers to submit ongoing financial information. At a minimum, this should include quarterly revenue and expense data.

  • Action (under consideration): BC Housing will work with Ministry of Housing and the not-for-profit sector to strengthen reporting, while considering non-profit capacity

7. Recommendation: consider establishing a formal structure and documented procedures outlining how budget and financial reviews are to be completed, including expected timelines and mechanisms for enforcement of those timelines.

  • Action (underway): initiate process for revising financial oversight and budget process, which will incorporate feedback from engagement with the not-for-profit sector
  • Action (underway): implement changes to financial review and budgeting processes identified as part of BC Housing’s Business Transformation Program
  • Action (planned): identify IT solutions for processes that are currently manual

8. Recommendation: consider requiring that financial reviews are completed prior to analyzing and approving budget requests for subsequent fiscal years.

  • Action (underway): update process and procedures to address this issue and reflect the need for funding certainty while financial reviews are completed
  • Action (planned): amend operating agreements to reflect process change

9. Recommendation: consider developing a status tracking framework, including key performance indicators and oversight responsibility matrix, illustrating BC Housing’s progress in performing budget and financial reviews. This status tracking framework can be presented to the Board of Commissioners on at least a semi-annual basis to promote enhanced governance practices.

  • Action (complete): BC Housing tracking status of financial reviews
  • Action (underway): enhanced reporting of the status of financial reviews to the Board of Commissioners

10. Recommendation: consider restructuring financial reviews to be under Audit Advisory Services’ (AAS) purview, given AAS’s mandate to “provide effective non-profit financial oversight… of BC Housing’s largest and complex housing providers” and their financial qualifications, supplemented with support and consultation from the Operations team.

  • Action (underway): BC Housing will develop a new interim model of undertaking financial reviews
  • Action (underway): introduction of new manager role with accounting and finance experience
  • Action (underway): analyze organizational and staff roles within the financial review process

11. Recommendation: prioritize hiring additional individuals with an accounting and/or finance background to supplement both the AAS and Operations teams with the budget review and financial review processes.

  • Action (underway): retain firm to support advancing finance-related projects as part of Business Transformation Program
  • Action (planned): BC Housing to incorporate review of job descriptions and roles into organizational analysis underway
  • Action: (planned): deliver enhanced training for staff

12. Recommendation: consider if steps can be taken to simplify the funding models utilized by BC Housing to promote more efficient processes.

  • Action (planned): BC Housing to work with the Ministry of Housing to review funding program requirements

13. Recommendation: consider implementing additional preventative controls within BC Housing’s information systems to require explicit confirmation of Excom approval for disbursements in excess of the relevant threshold.

  • Action (underway): BC Housing to incorporate consideration into review of Executive Committee terms of reference

14. Recommendation: consider implementing a triaging protocol whereby, in the event that BC Housing becomes aware of an actual or suspected breach of an operating agreement provision, a formal assessment and response plan is developed by ExCom with the assistance of legal counsel that requires reporting to the Board of Commissioners. We understand that BC Housing is introducing an Office of General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, which may aid in the implementation of this recommendation.

  • Action (underway): interim triaging protocol to escalate any compliance issue to the attention of the Vice President of Operations, who will engage outside legal counsel to provide formal assessment and remedies
  • Action (underway): development of framework for the formal assessment process – Planned
  • Action (planned): procedures updated to replace external legal counsel with General Counsel once office established

15. Recommendation: consider implementing a process whereby quantitatively or qualitatively significant Executive Committee submissions are circulated to the full Executive Committee in advance of finalization, to help ensure the completeness of ExCom submissions and associated documentation prior to decision-making.

  • Action (underway): incorporate into Executive Committee terms of reference
  • Action (underway): improved processes for Executive Committee to review reports
  • Action (planned): implement subcommittee structure for ExCom to ensure focused time to consider submissions

16. Recommendation: consider limiting business decision-making to formal communication methods such as email and virtual/in-person discussions supported by detailed meeting minutes. In the event that business decisions are made via text message, BC Housing should communicate the requirement for these records to be retained in the official record management system.

  • Action (underway): incorporate into Executive Committee terms of reference
  • Action (underway): document practice that texts and instant messaging should not be used as a method where a record for decision making is required
  • Action (underway): update records and information management policy to align with the Province
  • Action (underway): incorporate guidance for Microsoft Teams chats in policy
  • Action (planned): implement new annual training

17. Recommendation: consider establishing a Provider Code of Conduct, which can be incorporated into BC Housing’s operating agreements, that includes the following elements: request and communication protocols, minimum standard required information for funding requests, and COl policies.

  • Action (under analysis): BC Housing to work with Ministry of Housing and non-profit housing sector to analyze options to meet this recommendation

18. Recommendation: distribute and obtain written acceptance of the Provider Code of Conduct from existing and future Providers.

  • Action (under analysis): BC Housing to work with Ministry of Housing and non-profit housing sector to analyze options to meet this recommendation

19. Recommendation: update the language in the Standards of Conduct policy to align with the expectations set forth in the Provider Code of Conduct.

  • Action (under analysis): BC Housing to work with Ministry of Housing and non-profit housing sector to analyze options to meet this recommendation

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