The Rural Municipality of Hanover has taken over all aspects of the accounting functions of the Kleefeld Recreation Association (KRA).

Reeve Stan Toews says this comes following a 2017 audit. On June 13, 2018, Hanover Council was advised by Administration that during the course of the 2017 audit, the municipality's auditors found issues with the accounting control and procedures of the KRA that could leave municipal funds exposed to fraudulent activities. Toews says the auditor did not communicate any suspicions that fraudulent activities had occurred.

The next day, a meeting was held with the board of directors of the KRA to discuss the findings and establish corrective actions to remove that risk.

"All but one member of the board was present for the meeting," says Toews.

The end result was that all aspects of the accounting functions were transferred to the municipality so that all controls and procedures would be governed by Hanover's policies, significantly reducing the risk of fraud. Toews says due to the timing of the upcoming Honey Festival, it was determined that a phased changeover would be undertaken to prevent any disruption to that event.

According to Toews, Council and Administration believe in transparency and so the information contained in the annual audit of all recreation groups and the municipality as a whole is public information and available for review by any member of the public.

The Kleefeld Honey Festival took place August 10 to 12. Toews says that following week, questions began to surface regarding the audit and the decision to move the accounting function under the control of the Administration of Hanover. He notes there were also concerns raised regarding the winner of the annual Chili Cookoff Competition held at that Festival. The winner happens to be the spouse of a Hanover Councillor. Some of the concerns stem from Hanover providing grant money to the Festival and a perceived conflict of interest.

"The RM provides operation grants to all of our community recreation groups," explains Toews. "Our understanding is that some of this grant is utilized to fund the annual Honey Festival in Kleefeld. The board also undertakes a significant amount of fundraising to provide funds for the events."

Toews explains the Chili Cookoff Competition is a recognized national event, judged by an independent panel of judges from the Kansas City Barbeque Society.

"At this time, Council does not feel that sufficient evidence is present to warrant the interference of Council," says Toews. "If citizens are looking for change in the way recreation in Kleefeld is run, we encourage them to attend the regular board meetings and/ or seek nomination to be a part of the board at the next annual general meeting scheduled for October."

Meanwhile, Toews says the municipality taking over accounting functions in Kleefeld is not unique in Hanover. The municipality has already done this in New Bothwell and the same thing will happen in Mitchell at the end of August.

"Both voluntary," says Toews. "Bothwell really likes this procedure, so it works well, the rec members don't have to worry about accounting because a lot of them are just volunteers, they are not accountants."

Currently, groups in Grunthal and Blumenort still have control over their books.