Thursday, April 01, 2010

Chairman Braun before the Rights and Democracy committee.

The Rights and Democracy chair, vice-chair, and two board members got their say before the Foreign Affairs committee today.

The main problem, said Vice-Chair Jacques Gautier, is that too much power accrued to the former now deceased chair Remy Beauregard, and the organization also lacked transparency, accountability, and oversight and just did not follow the rules.

Item : In the past few weeks, the new recalibrated R&D board has hired 1)the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais, 2)the security firm Groupe Sirco, 3)the auditing firm Deloitte and Touche, 4)the PR firm Prima Communications, and 5)a new CEO.

Item : "Under current rules, the agency is required to call for tenders for contracts worth more than $10,000; must seek at least three tenders; and justify the choice “taking into account the price, the services offered and their quality."

NDP Paul Dewar was annoyed docs had not been supplied to the committee as requested. Were these contracts for more than $10,000?
After considerable prodding from Dewar to the effect that it was just not credible that an acting president have no idea what five contracts handed out under his watch might be worth, Vice Chair and interim President Gauthier eventually answered: Yes. Certainly more than $10,000.
Dewar : And were they tendered?
Gauthier : Um, no.

Oh dear.
But no worries. A week ago Chairman Aurel Braun recommended a bylaw change which would exempt the R&D president from having to follow those rules when "engaging agents, consultants and advisors."
Probably will need to be backdated to cover these five contracts from back in January and February though. And would this not in itself constitute the dreaded "accruing more power and control to the president"?

Chairman Aurel Braun's largely incoherent answers bore little relevance to the questions put to him but did at every opportunity inveigh against past R&D funding given to Al Haq in the West Bank, Al Mezan in Gaza, and B'Tselem in Israel, which he called "terrorist organizations which pretend to be human rights orgs". Al Haq, according to Braun, is a front for terrorists and also money has gone to the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and this is apparently anti-Israel and a bad thing. War crimes were mentioned, he said, and other things "not within the conscience of the Canadian people."

Libs Bob Rae and Bernard Patry and Bloc Johanne Deschamps both try to nail this anti-Israel business down, pointing out that the Israeli NGO B'Tselem is universally respected by virtually every government in Europe and the Israeli army, but as Board member and B'nai Brith lawyer David Matas pointed out while advising the committee to read his book - presumably Aftershock: Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism - "the Palestinians are called civilians but they throw stones."

Honourable mention for skating around in circles as far away from the puck as possible goes to Con Peter Goldring in collaboration with former Con candidate, missionary, and R&D board member Brad Farquhar. Goldring asked about political party development - some countries have 40 or 50 parties! - and how about Haiti, huh? Haiti has a serious lack of understanding about how democracy works. Farquhar was more than happy to answer at length a question having nothing whatsoever to do with the issue at hand. What is an election platform? he asks rhetorically. "In Tajikistan we had to teach them how to go out and doorknock and they weren't sure they were even allowed to do that. The transition from a former totalitarian state to a democratic state ... . We brought people from Bolivia to help in Haiti..." Oh look - time's up!

Overall the board's statements were remarkably short on the "documented facts" they kept insisting were their only concern despite the fact they hadn't brought any, not counting Matas' book. Braun charged that 46 out of 48 R&D staff who signed a letter calling for the resignations of board members were possibly coerced into signing it in exchange for a "rushed collective agreement". Much was made of the fact the board was not advised of the collective agreement. Mention was made of a contract awarded to a past R&D employee. Braun blamed the staff for the break-in and the stolen computers. The one thing none of them much wanted to discuss was Tuesday's gong show editorial written by the fifth R&D board member Marco Navarro-Genie not present at the meeting today.

Grisly blow-by-blow ably live-blogged by Kady.

No comments:

Blog Archive