The Canadian Press reports that nearly a third of Indian-band and related agency audits, required to track $5-billion in federal funds, are incomplete well past a July 31 deadline.

The Indian Affairs Department says the number of late or unfinished annual reports is nearly 50 per cent in Ontario, where 64 of 126 band audits are in and approved. In Quebec, 16 of 39 bands — 41 per cent — have not yet accounted for the money or must provide more detail.

“We mustn’t link the lack of an audit to misspending of funds,” said Cal Hegge, director of transfer payments for Indian Affairs. Some first nations needed more time to fulfill a new requirement this year that federal funds be separated from private, band-owned revenue, he said.

Others were delayed by vacation schedules and overbooked auditors. Indian Affairs has so far signed off on 621 of 881 fiscal reports required from almost 600 native bands and related groups that receive $30,000 a year or more.

That leaves 260 — 30 per cent — audits outstanding. The late rate held steady from last year despite government efforts- to stress timely reporting and transparency. It is an improvement over the 38 per cent that were tardy in 2000. Forty per cent were overdue in 1999.