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RCMP reviewing Innu economic group report after auditor's recommendation

Students are dropped off at school by snowmobile after lunch break in Natuashish, Nfld. in a Dec. 2, 2003 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Andrew Vaughan

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Students are dropped off at school by snowmobile after lunch break in Natuashish, Nfld. in a Dec. 2, 2003 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Andrew Vaughan

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - RCMP in Labrador are reviewing a spending report on the Innu Development Limited Partnership after the province's former auditor general advised it be sent to police.

John Noseworthy said he was hired by the partnership, which was formed to further the economic interests of the Innu, to review certain expenditures and compensation.

"I recommended that it be sent to the RCMP for consideration," Noseworthy said in an interview Thursday.

Noseworthy, a chartered accountant who served as provincial auditor general from 2002 to 2011, said such recommendations are made when reviews turn up potentially criminal activity.

He said officials with the partnership based in the small Innu community of Sheshatshiu, near Happy Valley-Goose Bay, accepted his recommendation.

Noseworthy met with them along with RCMP officers last week just after he completed his review, he said.

He declined to discuss the exact scope of the audit, its findings or recommendations.

Requests for comment from the Innu Development Limited Partnership were not answered.

RCMP Const. Rick Mills said Thursday that police have received the audit and are reviewing it. He had no further comment.

The partnership was created in 1998 by the Mushuau Innu First Nation in Natuashish and the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation. It is a for-profit corporation tasked with "creating and managing equity through ownership and partnerships in strategic industries," says its website.

Those ventures include Innu Kiewit Constructors, a joint effort between the partnership and Kiewit Infrastructure Group, and Innu Mikun Airlines Limited Partnership, between the partnership and Provincial Airlines in Labrador.

Financial matters at the partnership have made headlines before.

Natuashish Chief Gregory Rich, who said he has not seen the audit, said Thursday that community members have raised concerns in the past over how much executives at the Innu Development Limited Partnership were paid.

Rich said the Natuashish band council last year passed a resolution supporting calls for a forensic audit of the partnership.

"It is a concern for me because it's the people's money," he said in an interview. "They should spend the money in the community."

Sheshatshiu resident Mike Rossignol said he and others in the community of about 1,300 are anxious to learn what Noseworthy's review concluded.

"I am very interested and I know a lot of people are too," Rossignol said.

He said people were angered in July 2012 by leaked internal documents suggesting one former executive at the partnership was paid more than $1 million over two years in salary and benefits.

Residents protested in front of the partnership's Sheshatshiu office at the time, demanding answers and posting signs asking: "How long has this been going on?"

"A lot of people here in the community struggle on a daily basis just trying to get a job or look after any type of basic needs," Rossignol said. "We've got so many issues."

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