BBPA Undergoes Forensic Audit Amid Allegations of Financial Mismanagement and Governance Issues

Nadine Spencer

The Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA), a cornerstone of Canada’s advocacy for equity and opportunity within the Black community, faces significant scrutiny. Established in 1983 and celebrated for hosting the esteemed Harry Jerome Awards, the BBPA now confronts allegations that threaten its impressive legacy.

In late April 2023, Chandran Fernando, a business owner and a new member of the BBPA issued a statement expressing deep concerns over the BBPA’s financial practices. According to Fernando, who spoke on behalf of several anonymous new BBPA members, there have been grave procedural breaches involving the misuse of government grants and sponsor donations. Specifically, accusations centered around contracts awarded to entities linked to former President and CEO, Nadine Spencer The BBPA and Spencer have denied these allegations.

The gravity of these allegations prompted the BBPA to initiate an external review and a comprehensive forensic audit to address any potential financial discrepancies and governance failures. In tandem, an immediate structural adjustment was made within the board. To avoid any perception of conflict, board members active during the periods in question have resigned. Ross Cadastre and Rustum Southwell stepped down, and Janelle St. Omer has been appointed Interim-Chair.

Ross Cadastre

The BBPA’s recent structural changes and the launch of the forensic audit underscore a firm commitment to transparency and accountability, particularly crucial after receiving substantial funding from the National Ecosystem Fund. The National Ecosystem Fund supports not-for-profit Black-led business organizations across the country in their capacity to provide support, mentorship, financial planning, and business training for Black entrepreneurs. The Fund endowed the BBPA with $5 million to bolster services for Black entrepreneurs over four years.

As the external review progresses, the restructured BBPA board, serving entirely on a volunteer basis and unaffiliated with past decisions, focuses on navigating this turbulent phase. They aim to fortify the organization’s governance and ensure its operations align with the highest standards of ethical conduct.

While the BBPA limits further comments to safeguard the integrity of the ongoing audit, they promise regular updates to their members, community, and supporters. The community is urged to remain engaged and supportive as the BBPA strives to emerge stronger and more transparent, continuing its 40-year mission to empower and uplift Black business professionals across Canada.

In these challenging times, the resolve of the BBPA to address these issues head-on not only reflects its dedication to its foundational principles but also serves as a critical moment of reflection and potential rejuvenation for one of Canada’s most pivotal Black organizations.

Nadine Spencer and Ross Cadastre

In a statement to the Caribbean Camera, Spencer said “I’ve been deeply committed to supporting the Black community throughout my career, highlighting the systemic racism and challenges we face. As a volunteer president from 2017 to October 2021, and later as the paid interim CEO of the BBPA during the COVID-19 pandemic, I led our response to the crisis impacting Black-owned businesses. We gathered crucial data on the pandemic’s disproportionate effects and launched an emergency hotline, directly managing it to facilitate immediate aid.

Our team, with very limited resources, delivered significant support by hiring Black-owned contractors and providing resources and financial assistance to thousands of businesses and hundreds of students. We also lobbied the government for additional support for Black entrepreneurs and raised our organization’s profile significantly.

Transitioning from a volunteer-driven group to a professional entity focused on efficient program delivery presented numerous challenges, including HR and governance. Despite these, we made substantial progress, ensuring my involvement remained ethical and transparent, especially concerning any potential conflicts of interest with my marketing firm”.