Whistleblower line, code of conduct among first actions as non-profit Atira seeks ‘reset’ – BC

An embattled non-profit housing provider gave an update Tuesday on its efforts to “reset” and renew following the high-profile exit of its CEO.

Janice Abbott stepped down as the head of the Atira Women’s Resources Society in May, a week after the release of a scathing forensic audit of BC Housing that found a conflict of interest.

Click to play video: 'Atira CEO Janice Abbot resigns, week after damning BC Housing audit'

Atira CEO Janice Abbot resigns, week after damning BC Housing audit

On Tuesday, the organization released a “100-day” update as the organization seeks to “renew public trust” under interim CEO Catherine Roome.

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Since kicking off the renewal, Atira has introduced a code of conduct with an emphasis on avoiding conflict of interest and introduced a new whistleblower line to “foster a speak-up culture” the organization said.

It has also conducted its first risk assessment, and reviewed its compliance with statutes and regulations as well as its operating contracts with BC Housing.

A review of real estate assets also led to the decision to sell at 1,500 square-foot live/work space, Atira said.

Additionally, the organization has launched a third-party review of its board governance to modernize its oversight practices and is working on recruiting a permanent new CEO.

Click to play video: 'Reaction to Atira launching review of practices'

Reaction to Atira launching review of practices

The May audit into BC Housing highlighted a conflict of interest between its own CEO, Shane Ramsay, and Abbott, to whom he was married.

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The Ernst and Young report found that while no individual benefitted materially from the relationships, Atira was awarded contracts without a competitive process, received a substantial increase in funding, and got at least $3 million in COVID-19 funds without appropriate internal BC Housing approval.

Atira also took actions contrary to its operation agreements, the audit found, including using $2 million in restricted, repayable funds to help fund a property purchase. The provider bypassed BC Housing’s standard approval channels and approached senior members of the Crown corporation directly for funding and other requests multiple times, it added.

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