The City of Brampton spent more than $500,000 on a proposal for a university. However, the university has not passed the planning stage. This information came out in a partial forensic audit.
Froese Forensic Partners Limited conducted the partial audit, a copy of which was obtained by CTV News. The audit said that the firm selected for the proposal was given an advantage over its competitors.
The full picture of decision-making is not on record and was canceled before the audit was completed. It was overturned in a City Council vote on August 26. Mayor Patrick Brown referred to the investigation as a witch hunt. But councilors who voted against canceling the audit claim it will be a waste of money if it is not completed.
The partial audit contains investigation data up to August 26 and is considered final due to voting.
Brampton has been talking about establishing a university of its own. After the Progressive Conservative Party formed government in 2018, plans to set up a satellite campus costing $90 million were scrapped.
According to the audit, Brampton councilor Rowena Santos and close advisers to the mayor began working on plans for the university long before competitive bidding. In 2019, Santos sent Brown a blog post suggesting that Brampton could still establish a university themselves. The blog post was written by David Willer, founder of Stakeholder Research Associates Canada Inc. and co-founder of the Academy for Sustainable Innovation Canada Inc. It was Wheeler who eventually got the job of creating the plan to establish the university in Brampton.
It is noteworthy that the audit was suspended before the interview of key stakeholders such as Santos, Wheeler and consultant Rod Godfrey. The audit revealed that there was a conflict of interest at the outset of the proposal. Because Wheeler was a close friend and mentor of Councilor Santos. Santos presented the blog post at the first meeting and the plan was given the go ahead. Prior to that, in August 2019, Santos sought the opinion of Brampton’s then Ethics and Integrity Commissioner and stated that there was no conflict of interest.