AJAs 2016 Finalists


Slug/Label Shelter Finances
Date Aired or Published March 9 - Nov. 3, 2016
Media outlet where first aired or published: CBC NL
Name of Program:
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: Newfoundland and Labrador
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio): 18:28

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

In January 2015, CBC News did a story on a Newfoundland transition house’s reluctance to provide its provincial funding agency with seven years of financial statements, while receiving millions from the public purse. After that story, Iris Kirby House released five years worth of those financial records. But questions about financial transparency remained. So, a year after that initial story, we followed up. In March 2016, using those financial documents, access to information requests and public records, CBC News revealed details of a curious property transaction involving the shelter. Iris Kirby House spent $335,000 in tax dollars and donations to buy and renovate a house in Conception Harbour to help women escape domestic violence, but the property instead fell into unused disrepair before being sold for just $60,000. In July 2016, another story about financial management issues: the charity’s affiliated fundraising foundation was forced to fix significant errors in the financial statements filed with the Canada Revenue Agency. That story helped spark the province to take action. Government officials said they would pull the plug on funding unless their concerns about financial transparency and accountability were addressed. Auditors examined some of the books. CBC News obtained their report though access to information. It flagged an array of questionable expenditures at Iris Kirby House and its affiliated charitable foundation over the past two fiscal years, with tax dollars and donations spent on everything from booze to travel to a six-figure consulting contract that did not result in an actual written report. There were questions about compensation paid to the CEO. And government officials also learned that external auditors had concerns about how donations were being accounted for. The CEO went on “extended medical leave” and new board members were brought in to help guide the organization.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

This story was produced by CBC NL’s investigative unit, through public records searches, access to information, source work, and door knocking. The stories required patience and sensitivity, given the nature of work done by the group in question — helping women escaping domestic violence — which officials used to rebuff accountability questions. Lawyers for Iris Kirby House initially said the shelter would not discuss its financial statements "for the protection of those seeking our services." Transition house officials and their external legal counsel would go on to accuse CBC News of everything from "innuendo" to being used by critics to "intentionally harm" shelter funding and "impair its good work in the community."

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