01/19/2013 04:10 EST | Updated 03/21/2013 05:12 EDT

Ottawa investigating public money spending in Obedjiwan

The Canadian government has hired an external firm to investigate how public money is spent in an Atikamekw community in northern Quebec, according to Radio-Canada.

A civil servant from Ottawa and an accountant are investigating the way Obedjiwan's band council has been spending cash on 300 housing units, a local sawmill, a grocery store and a gas station.

"I'm not surprised," said Christian Awashish, the band council chief. "We've had our share of complaints at council."

People in the Atikamekw community have been complaining about a lack of transparency since the provincial police launched a similar investigation in 2009.

The investigation led to accusations of fraud against a former member of the band council.

In the spring of 2011, about 200 people signed a petition asking for better management of the public purse.

Some people said they support the idea of an external audit.

Canada's Indian affairs ministry told Radio-Canada the investigation could lead to criminal charges if any wrongdoing is proven.