OTTAWA – The federal auditor general is poised to release audits of some $500 million in MP and Senate expenses that parliamentarians did not want conducted.
But anyone anticipating explosive evidence of individual misconduct may be disappointed.
The terms of the two audits, begun in 2010 after public pressure forced parliamentarians to relent and permit the investigation, ensure that no MPs or senators are named and shamed.
The audits didn’t even look at individual office management nor the merit of specific MP spending decisions.
“Our objective is to determine whether the House has sound management processes and key administrative systems and practices,” then-auditor general Sheila Fraser said in June 2010.
“If we see that there is total disregard for the rules, obviously we would extend our testing and do more in-depth work.”
Fraser has since retired and been replaced by Michael Ferguson, who will deliver the two audits Wednesday afternoon.
The work has been a long time coming.
Fraser was repeatedly denied the right to do such an audit by parliament’s powerful, all-party Board of Internal Economy. But in the spring of 2010 a massive public outcry erupted over politician spending scandals in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and Britain.
A provincial audit in Nova Scotia turned up evidence of public money spent on power generators, custom-made furniture, TVs and other electronic goods. That scandal is still reverberating, with former Liberal MLA Dave Wilson sentenced to nine months in jail this April and ordered to repay nearly $61,000 he defrauded to feed a gambling addiction.
A 2006 audit in Newfoundland found millions of questionable dollars wasted by all three parties, including $2.6 million spent on lapel pins, fridge magnets and other trinkets over a period of years.
And British newspapers had a field day in 2009 after a detailed list of spending irregularities by MPs was leaked, culminating with charges against a number of British parliamentarians.
In such an atmosphere, described by one Conservative cabinet member as a “campaign of misinformation,” MPs on Parliament Hill could no longer resist the auditor general’s long-standing request to audit their spending.
A Canadian Press Harris-Decima poll in the spring of 2010 found that four out of five respondents believed MPs were breaking the rules on expenses, and 85 per cent expressed concern about Parliament stonewalling the audit request.
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