Friday, May 10, 2013

Is it possible for a Canadian Senator to commit fraud?

Good Day Readers:

Every so often a story comes along that's truly amazing. This is one. For years the Senate Board of Internal Economy has been telling taxpayers not to worry everything's under tight financial control so there's no need to hold it accountible. Besides, it's not obliged to reveal information to the great unwashed masses who pay their bills. Along comes Majory LeBreton who's been there for a donkey's years (appointed by Brian Mulroney) to say, "..... the rules lack clarity." What took you so long to figure that one out Ms LeBreton?

But it just keeps getting better. A member of the committee of senators investigating other senators asked one of the auditors whether any further action was required and the answer was "no" which is why CyberSmokeBlog asked the question, "Is it possible for a Canadian Senator to commit fraud?"

Sure doesn't sound like it.

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Senate investigation comes under fire
Bill Curray/Kim Mackrael - Ottawa
Thursday, February 9, 2013
Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton announces the amounts some fellow senators will have to repay. Opposition politicians say the matter should have been referrred to police. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The practice of senators investigating senators is under fire after a committee required three members of the Red Chamber to repay tens of thousands of dollars in expenses but opted not to refer the matter to police.

Oppositon politicians expressed outrage over the probe of the controversial expense claims, which was led by Conservative and Liberal Senators on the Board of Internal Economy with assistance from independent autitors because it also appeared that the Conservative committee chair gave his caucus colleague Mike Duffy an opportunity to correct some potentially embarrassing expenses before the final reports were released.

Using Mr. Duffy's cellphone records, auditors reporting to the committee discovered that the PEI senator claimed $87.55 a day over a 12-day period in January, 2012, for working in Ottawa when he was in Florida.

In a letter, Mr. Duffy wrote that he would repay the $1,050.60 in expenses - which he attributes to an administrative mistake - in April after a conversation with David Tkachuk, the Conservative chair of the board.

Mr. Tkachuk wrote in an e-mail on Thursday that Mr. Duffy had already made the repayment when the conversation took place.

That same week in April, Mr. Duffy announced he had repaid $90,172.24. The committee said on Thursday that the amount was correct and that no more is required. It also ordered Independent Senator Patrick Brazeau to repay $48,744 and enator Mac Harb to repay $51,482.

Asked why the audits were not referred to police, Marjory LeBreton, the government leader in the Senate, said the rules lack clarity.

"They [auditors] did in fact acknowledge that some of the rules with regard to expense claims were unclear. They are no longer going to be unclear," she said.

She added that a committee member asked the auditors if they thought further action was required and was told no.

NDP MP Alexandrie Latendresse questioned how everthing can be find as long as the three senators return the money.

"I think it's clear enough that there seems to be the appearance of fraud and it really demands more investigation," she said on Thursday. "I think it's a matter for the RCMP.

James Cowan, leader of the Senate opposition, said now that the reports are public, police can review them if inappropriate.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair called the process a "bogus investigation by [the Prime Minister's] handpicked cronies in the Senate."

Ms. LeBreton said Mr. Brazeau and Mr. Harb would be expected to repay the money they owe immediately" or the Senate will take the necessary steps to seize these funds.

Mr. Harb, who announced he was quitting the Liberal caucus on Thursday, rejects the findings and has retained former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache to challenge the investigation.

Senate rules allow members to collect as much as $22,000 a year to cover the cost of living in the National Capital Region if their primary residence is more than 100 kilometres away.

The audits found that while Mr. Harb claimed his principal residence was in Westmeath, Ontario, about 140 kilometres west of Ottawa, he was there only about 21 per cent of the time. Mr. Brazeau claimed his principal residence was in Maniwaki, Quebec about 135 kilometres notth of Ottawa - yet auditors found he spent only about 10 per cent of his time there. Mr. Duffy claimed his primary residence was in Canendish, PEI, yet auditors found he was in PEI for 30 per cent of the time.

Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin is facing a separate audit of her travel expenses, which is expected to take longer to resolve.

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