RCMP confirms investigation into CO2 research centre spending in Regina

REGINA - RCMP in Saskatchewan are looking into how millions of taxpayer dollars were spent at a carbon capture research centre.

Mounties say a fraud investigation started in August into the International Performance Assessment Centre for the Geologic Storage of Carbon Dioxide, commonly known as IPAC-CO2.

An initial review began after the NDP went to the RCMP in May with questions about how $2.1 million was spent at the centre.

"This government has dismissed the allegations and the waste for a long time on this front, well over a year," New Democrat Trent Wotherspoon said Tuesday after learning of the investigation.

"The fact now that the RCMP have engaged and have found enough information to engage in a full investigation is awfully troubling."

IPAC-CO2 was created in 2008 with funding from the province and Royal Dutch Shell. The centre was based at the University of Regina until the provincial government cut funding earlier this year and it wound up operations.

That was after concerns were raised about management of information technology contracts.

An internal memo said the greatest part of the money billed for IT services was "spent for no acceptable business reason."

A forensic investigation by the firm Myers Norris Penny found there was a conflict of interest because two people held seats on both the IPAC board and the board of its IT supplier. IPAC also entered an untendered contract with the IT company.

Wotherspoon said the government should have taken the case to police.

Premier Brad Wall and Donna Harpauer, minister responsible for Crown Investments Corp., have said there was nothing to take to the RCMP and Myers Norris Penny could have taken steps with authorities if they had concerns.

"We were going off the forensic report that was done. The provincial auditor also had looked at it and made no recommendations," Wall said Tuesday.

Harpauer echoed those comments.

"I based decisions, of course, on the Myers Norris Penny report, as well as the provincial auditor — both of which did not identify any criminal wrongdoing. Nor do we know specifically what the RCMP investigation will show," Harpauer said at the legislature.

"We don't know that there's been wrongdoing here."

Harpauer said, to her knowledge, no money is missing and the computer equipment — while expensive — is accounted for.

The minister also said she doesn't know where the IPAC documents ended up when the organization shut down.

"The IPAC documents would have been still overseen by the CEO who stayed on for the closure of the IPAC. They would be in possession, I believe, of the U of R (University of Regina)," she said. "I'm not sure where they are."

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