The James Bay Cree of Northern Quebec are at the threshold of deciding what the next step is in seeking to reconcile how management for the Cree Construction & Development Corporation allegedly embezzled a sum estimated at over a quarter million dollars.
Last year a purchasing agent who had been transferred to the purchasing department discovered the impropriety when the invoices submitted for materials was allegedly made out for more than double of what they were worth. Three years ago, the company was in a financial position with retained earnings of around 10 million, yet this past fiscal year, that number was negative.
The company is currently investigating their legal options, and what action to take against those involved. Company Director Josie Jimiken was reluctant to concede any facts before a decision is reached at the end of the month, but confirmed that the accused were management brought in by an unnamed outside headhunting firm.
“The basic public position at this point is that these dismissals occurred because of mismanagement, and a lack of financial performance by the company,” stated Jimiken.
If it seems ambiguous it has to be so for now – A third party was hired to investigate their financial records, and the final outcome of these events will be determined by a decision made by the Board of Compensation at their next quarterly meeting taking place this March.
The Board of Compensation is composed of two elected representatives from each of the nine Cree Communities, plus three elected representatives from the CRA Grand Council.
Cree Construction is now in the process of replacing the people who have been dismissed, but any prospect of legal action rests with the Board.
Cree Construction was founded in 1976 with a mandate to construct housing in the Cree communities. Over the last 26 years it has expanded its activities into road construction, maintenance, infrastructure, renovation, and various environmental projects that employ as many as 400 people, half of which are of Cree ancestry. Their modest beginnings have since flourished into a multi-million dollar enterprise with market interests in Indonesia, Malaysia, the former Soviet Union, and Madagascar.
Cree Construction VP and Air Creebec President Albert Diamond says he is unaware of any details concerning the investigation, though he did suggest that the initial discovery had been made far earlier than previously anticipated.
“[I have no idea] when it was discovered – I heard things being said in October of last year, but I think it was even before that. As far as the formal investigation, I think it started around then – maybe even in September,” said Diamond.
Others, like Jimiken, place the discovery even further back than that.
“The company is now looking at various legal options, and if they should institute legal action against anyone or several individuals then publication of any information at this point in time might compromise their legal position,” he said.
He conceded that a third party had been brought in to handle the investigation, though he could not confirm if – or at what point – police were involved. Cree Construction will only be issuing a statement following the decision at the end of March.