The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Monday, January 09, 2006

Another Piece of the O'Learygate Puzzle

And while we're on the topic of scandals, last week The Black Rod discovered a missing piece of the puzzle in the scandal known as O'Learygate.

You'll remember this involves the Seven Oaks School Division's disastrous participation in the Swinford Park real estate development, and the repeated assurances of Superintendent Brian O'Leary that it was all on the up and up, nothing amiss, stop asking, go away.

The school division funded the construction of the housing development in a gamble to raise money. It was also a scheme to jump the queue and get a new school built in the expanding suburb, even though the School Board hadn't asked for funding and weren't on the list for a replacement high school.

When caught, they claimed their foray into land development would turn a tidy profit. The Education Minister, Peter Bjornson, even repeated the claim in the House, explaining why he had told a concerned taxpayer who wrote to him, that his questions were unfounded.

But a departmental report prepared for the Minister revealed that

* the projected "profit" was actually a million dollars out of whack
* they had actually lost between $200,000 to $ 300,000
* the entire project was in clear breach of restrictions in the law put on school board spending.

That million dollar loss was hidden deep in the report, and was only discovered and reported by The Black Rod.

We then asked the questions the other reporters didn't--- who discovered the loss, when, and why had the Education Minister not informed the Legislature?

This week the Auditor General, Jon Singleton, gave us at least part of the answer.

It seems the government ordered school boards to revise their accounting to conform to GAAP, generally accepted accounting principles. Part of the reason for change was to get a handle on how much money school boards raise on their own without telling the government.

The province's school boards weren't doing anything wrong since they had been conducting their accounts the way the government bean-counters told them, but the government changed the rules and gave the school boards two years to do it the GAAP way.

We believe this is when the true cost of Swinford Park was discovered.

However after the auditors re-filed the Seven Oaks financial statements, why the NDP continued to hide the true figures remains unanswered.

Meanwhile we are also waiting to see the revised financial statements for the other development project SOSD have gambled on, across the street, on the east side of Main.

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