The state-funded child welfare organization of Peel has paid more than $49,000 to a company run by one of its senior executives since 2020, according to a Global News investigation.
Internal emails and documents show that the Peel Children’s Aid Society (CAS) paid Kitchener-based Cloud Ventures Inc. at least $49,100 for services, including summer camps.
Records kept by the Ontario Ministry of Government and Consumer Services indicate that a man named Haris Syed is the secretary and treasurer of this company.
Syed’s LinkedIn profile suggests he works in financial planning at Peel CAS.
His LinkedIn profile lists his location as the “Greater Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo Metropolitan Area.” Government records show Haris Syed of Cloud Ventures Inc. was registered at an address on the outskirts of Kitchener.
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In late 2019, Syed opened a business that teaches kids to code at Laurelwood Mall in Waterloo with his business partner, Naveed Ali, according to local reports at the time.
The company was a subsidiary of Code Ninjas, a North American franchise specializing in teaching children and young teens to code. Code Ninjas operates over 500 branches in Canada and the United States.
Cloud Ventures, paid over $49,000 by Peel CAS, is the name of the registered company that runs Code Ninjas Waterloo.
Global News obtained an invoice from Code Ninjas Waterloo to Peel CAS with Cloud Ventures as the address, alongside a Code Ninjas logo.
Ali and Syed are listed as active officers of Cloud Ventures Inc. by the province.
“Peel CAS has created a project to help young people develop their programming skills with Code Ninjas in early 2020,” the organization said in a statement.
“A virtual component was necessary to ensure the health and safety of our young people. Unfortunately, virtual programs were not available from the local Code Ninjas vendor at that time.
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Emails obtained by Global News also show that Peel CAS frontline workers were encouraged to enroll children in virtual camps run by Code Ninjas Waterloo, the business Syed is said to have started.
“If you have not registered (sic) a child/adolescent in your file, please register now. Your support is appreciated,” said a June 3, 2020 email to several internal Peel CAS staff lists.
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The email included a brochure for a camp organized by Code Ninjas Waterloo.
Virtual summer camps run by Code Ninjas Waterloo in 2020 cost $130 plus tax, according to the documents.
“The agency has obtained quotes from potential vendors,” the statement from Peel CAS said. “A cost-effective provider, Code Ninjas Waterloo, met the specific needs of our youth and the agency. However, one of our staff was affiliated with this provider.
“This was taken into consideration before the supplier was approved.”
Another email from January 28, 2022 issued a reminder to enroll children in more virtual programs in February 2022. Code Ninjas Waterloo was one of the programs joined.
Peel CAS said it ended its relationship with Code Ninjas Waterloo “earlier this year”.
Peel CAS said the approval “should not have been granted” and that the organization “sincerely regrets this error”.
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Peel CAS has arranged for children to attend camps run by Code Ninjas Waterloo since 2020, according to the organization.
The value paid to Cloud Ventures Inc. is over $49,000. Syed is the financial planning, analytics and compliance manager at Peel CAS, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He did not respond to questions from Global News sent on April 5 and 7. A voicemail message left on Syed’s Peel CAS number was not returned.
Attempts to reach Syed’s business partner Ali via Facebook and LinkedIn were unsuccessful.
Peel CAS has been under management scrutiny for over a year.
In early 2021, the province ordered an investigation into the organization after reports of anti-Black racism raised by frontline staff and their union.
The resulting document, released in October 2021, describes the organization as “seriously troubled”. He raised concerns about how the Children’s Aid Society was run, including costs, salaries and expenses.
The review found that the organization’s training and recruiting costs were double that of “comparison companies” and that promotion and advertising costs were three times higher.
Peel CAS CEO Rav Bains has been on administrative leave since November 2021 pending a board investigation.
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According to the Peel CAS statement, the organization’s conflict of interest policy “requires the agency to avoid not only actual conflicts of interest, but also potential conflicts and the perception of a conflict of interest. interests”.
A Peel CAS intranet post created in July 2020, reproduced and sent to Global News, also stated that Code Ninjas Waterloo would be offering 10% off to frontline workers.
“Code Ninjas Waterloo is offering 2 VIRTUAL coding summer camps with discounts for PeelCAS staff,” the post read.
He asked staff to email Naveed Ali, Syed’s business partner at Cloud Ventures Inc. according to official records, for a discount.
“We have reviewed and strengthened our policies and procedures, while ensuring that appropriate controls are in place to eliminate any potential future conflicts of interest,” Peel CAS said.
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