Creative Accounting

July 20th, 2014

In October of 2013 we reported that the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) was spending more than $65,000 per day on travel.  This year the figure is $70,616, per day, just on travel expenses.

That seems awfully high.  Recall that the CSA is mandated to “coordinate” standardization, their mandate is secretarial.  So how does such a small mandate make for such a massive travel budget? 

RestoreCSA pondered this question last year.  We don’t know the travel expense breakdowns, as between airfares and hotels for instance, because the CSA is exempted from the Freedom of Information Act as well as the transparency and accountability requirements standard to other government entities.  So we ran the numbers we did have.  It turned out that the CSA’s 2013 travel budget would cover 74,256 return airfares from CSA’s Toronto office to Ottawa each year.  That’s 297 return airfares to Ottawa per workday or, if you prefer, its 12 return trips per hour, every hour, on a 24 hour day, each workday, for a full year. 

Rhetorically, we asked “do you really believe that the CSA is flying a staff member to Montreal 11 times per hour, every hour, every workday?  Do you really think that some CSA executive is flying back and forth to Chicago 219 times per day?  Really?  So the math doesn’t work, does it?” 

Indeed it doesn’t.  And in 2014 the math got even more implausible. Now its 12 times per hour to Montreal and 235 daily return airfares to Chicago.

Well, after the Wild Travel Budget article we started receiving notes from CSA personnel to the effect that the reported travel expenditures weren’t what they seemed.  The $65k per day wasn’t really being spent on travel.  One CSA insider referred to “marking up the books.” 

Shortly thereafter, RestoreCSA started receiving documentation on CSA’s certifications process.  We heard that consumer product safety certifications were being sold without regard to actual safety or testing, that whatever product testing was being done was being falsified or outrightly fabricated, and that CSA leadership was smiling upon this conduct, actively encouraging it and penalizing anyone who objected.

Testing and certification programs are tied to finance, in that the sales group generates the testing and certification contracts, and the practices of the one group appear equally prevalent in the other.  The practice of “pushing” an unsafe product through certification generates more revenue than approving a genuinely safe product.  And CSA demands payment for this pushing.

Administrative assistants such as Barbara Weiser were entrusted with “marking up the books” and, lest there be any doubt about what the CSA insiders mean but this term, its “meaning extra money that was coming from CSA sales to push unsafe certification through.”

Management is likewise involved.  George Gruss, US Operations Manager, “was also marking up the books.”  Michael Martin, EVP - Finance, is up to his neck in it.  Quoting one source, “Michael’s job is to monitor the profit and extra funding the manufacturers are willing to give extra to push projects through without testing.” 

This is standard practice at the CSA, its their normal.  Likely, they’re so familiar with these practices that they see nothing wrong with them.  Laws are written by CSA, not for CSA.  And that brings us back to the travel budget.

“I just realize [sic] that I do have evidence of the $60k per day travel expenses.  This is a long CSA story‚Ķ..”  RestoreCSA sat for that story, it was a face to face experience.  Apparently as the fiscal year-end approaches there’s a reassignment of expenditures for a variety of internal reasons.  They were hiding stuff.  Of course, this tends to make their financial filings a touch more creative than reliable.  Management was “just shuffling numbers around for the different departments [but we were told that] it was not affecting CSA as a company.” 

Folks, no company can legally report expenditures in one department that actually took place in another one.  Neither can anyone claim an expense, say a travel expense, that was actually incurred elsewhere. 

RestoreCSA asked one insider to identify who had verified to them that CSA’s accounting was being manipulated.  This person mentioned two persons, “Rich Weiser [VP - US and Mexico] and Martine Scheurmann [Dir. - HR].”  Other sources have included Dave Schaefer, CSA Manager - Quotations, Paul Keane, EVP - HR, Bonnie Rose, President of Standards, and Ash Sahi, the CEO. 

“Rich Weiser [VP - US and Mexico] stated to me that it was normal for CSA to shuffle number [sic] around” between departments, but “[at the time] I did not know they were committing money fraud.”  Another source added that “this was one of the many illegal activities that I was questioning [at] CSA.”

RestoreCSA is limited in what we can release publicly on this file, we can’t say all that we see.  Ultimately, this issue is for an investigation by authorities, hopefully unhindered by CSA personnel working inside government.  What we can say with authority is that the CSA is in desperate need of substantial reform and recovery and, for public safety if nothing else, it needs it now.