The city’s head of finance has been signing financial records since 2015 with the letters CPA (Chartered Professional Accountant) behind his name, but he is not authorized to use that title in BC.
The designation can only be used by members of the government-recognized Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC), which has self-regulatory powers to investigate and discipline any of its more than 35,000 members.
“Not a member”
But it was confirmed this week that Mr. Mema, who oversees the city’s $200m annual budget, hasn’t been a member of CPABC since coming to the province from Alberta.
Said CPABC’s vice president of ethics Edward Tanaka on Friday: “I can confirm that Mr. Victor Mema is not a member of CPABC.
“If a member from another CPA provincial body wishes to reside in BC and use the CPA designation in BC, they must become a CPABC member. This involves applying for membership to CPABC, and having the application approved.”
There is no suggestion that Mr. Mema is unqualified to hold the CPA designation. He is currently a member of CPA Alberta, which he first joined in 2014 after he had already moved to BC from Fort McMurray in 2013.
But by failing to register with CPABC, Mr. Mema has put himself in a regulatory blindspot. He is not subject to CPABC’s complaints process and standards, and the Alberta body he belongs to has no direct jurisdiction to regulate accountants in BC.
The only action CPABC can take against Mr. Mema is a court injunction to stop him using the CPA designation. But that is an expensive step that Mr. Mema could thwart by becoming a CPABC member.
Mr. Mema did not respond to an email on Friday asking why he is using the CPA designation if he is not a member of CPABC.
CPABC officials told News Nanaimo that the city’s finance chief faces no obvious obstacles to joining the BC body.
Full dues in CPABC last year cost $976.50, which is $127.05 less than Nanaimo taxpayers paid for Mr. Mema to maintain CPA Alberta membership. He could be a full BC member and an affiliate member in Alberta.
Paid Alberta resident fee
Expense records obtained by News Nanaimo show that on May 31 last year Mr. Mema elected to pay full Alberta resident membership fees of $1,103.55 to CPA Alberta in an online credit card transaction.
Instructions on CPA Alberta’s website say full member fees are for members who live in Alberta or who don’t qualify for affiliate membership.
Mr. Mema does not live in Alberta and he could take up affiliate status in CPA Alberta if he joined CPABC. Affiliate membership in CPA Alberta costs $232 per year.
Mr. Mema obtained his CPA by completing the predecessor Chartered Management Accountant (CMA) program in November 2014 immediately prior to the unification of national accounting designations under the CPA.
At the time he was chief financial officer at the District of Sechelt, which he joined on April 8, 2013 from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in Alberta.
Sechelt paid about $30,000 towards Mr. Mema’s training, including several flights, hotel stays, car hires and meal expenses for trips to Alberta to attend executive CMA program sessions.
Breached new law on day one
On June 24, 2015, the CPABC was established with the BC government’s proclamation of the Chartered Professional Accountants Act. From that point on only members of CPABC were permitted to use the CPA designation in BC.
The next day, on June 25, 2015, Mr. Mema breached the new law by signing Sechelt’s 2015 Statement of Financial Information with the signature “Victor Mema, CPA, CMA, CTP.”
CTP stands for Certified Treasury Professional, a designation sponsored by the Association of Financial Professionals in the US. Mr. Mema no longer uses that title.
Mr. Mema left Sechelt on August 28, 2015 to begin work as Nanaimo’s new director of finance on September 8. During the time he was in Sechelt, he rang up expenses totalling $67,185.54.
Since arriving in Nanaimo, Mr. Mema has repeatedly signed various financial reports and statements using the CPA designation after his name.
The news of the CFO’s unauthorized use of the CPA designation is certain to add to the growing list of questions swirling around the city’s finance department.
Last September, the District of Sechelt filed suit against Mr. Mema seeking repayment of almost $10,000 related to allegedly personal expenses he charged to a corporate credit card.
In a statement to local media after the lawsuit was made public, city manager Tracy Samra called Mr. Mema “an exceptional CFO” whose work had been recognized with an award from the Union of BC Municipalities.
Last November, News Nanaimo published a review of 85 pages of expense records obtained through a freedom of information request showing how Ms. Samra and Mr. Mema had spent about $16,000 in the first six months of 2017.
The city subsequently blocked our request to access statements of corporate credit cards issued to Mr. Mema and Ms. Samra, even though it released records for three other senior managers.
Published records show that Ms. Samra and Mr. Mema racked up more than $50,000 in expenses in the 18 months to the end of last June, the most recently available figures.
The two top managers’ spending is almost four times the $13,000 their predecessors spent in their final two years at the city.
Responding to pressure over management expenses, Ms. Samra announced an internal policy overhaul in a media statement (PDF) on Dec. 8.
“Allegations that city staff have overspent or charged taxpayers for non-eligible expenses are unfounded,” said Ms. Samra in the statement.
Meanwhile, a scheduled report on management expenses that should have been released in early December has still not been published.
Questions raised by a resident about the late disclosure went unanswered at last week’s council meeting.