Friday, May 29, 2015

Are you being 'hosed" by your Member of Parliament? Don't know do you? Why's that?

Your Member of Parliament?
Good Day Readers:

The Canadian Senate was created in 1867 with 72 seats at the time. It's a beyond fair and reasonable assumption to assume not all politicians are honest so does that mean it has been hosing taxpayers now for well over 100-years? Most likely.

So why hasn't there been an audit of Members of Parliament? "Elementary my Dear Watson" that's because they're beyond the purview of Canada's Auditor General and the country's Freedom of Information Laws. You have to believe by now the Senate is woe betiding the day it invited Michael Ferguson and his team in to undertake its investigation the results of which will be published next week.

There are roughly 3 times the number of MPs as there are senators so the amount your Members have been stealing from you should reflect that ratio. So why doesn't the federal government invite the auditor in to look at elected officials expenditures? The Harper government is afraid of what Mr. Ferguson will find much of it at the hands of Conservatives. Scary eh?

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk

Stephen Maher: Scrutiny of expense accounts should be extended to MPs

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Next week, auditor general Michael Ferguson will deliver an audit to the Senate in which he will recommend that nine senators be referred to the RCMP for criminal investigations and 21 others be made to pay back money they ought not have received.

This will hit the chamber of sober second thought like a mortar round. It could well send some senators to prison, and will further damage the reputation of an institution that already looks like a taxpayer-funded dumping ground for party bagmen.

So Ferguson is not Mr. Popular with certain party bagmen. That might have something to do with the fact there was a story this week raising questions about his office’s spending.

Over four years, Ferguson’s office has spent $23,048 on team-building trips involving curling, zip lining and laser tag. They also spent $107,110 on annual out-of-office lunch meetings, some of which apparently involved pizza.

Any story about how public officials spend our money is valuable, but this seems thin.

Ferguson runs a $83-million organization, with 575 employees who work long hours to find out where our tax dollars go and how well the government is run. They routinely produce really important reports, revealing the sponsorship scandal, for instance, and more recently, life-threatening shortcomings in northern nursing care.

These reports often make politicians sweat, and they grumble and whisper about Ferguson, as they did about his predecessor, Sheila Fraser.

It would be a mistake to do much of that in public, because politicians live in houses made of the flimsiest kind of glass.

In the lobbies of the House of Commons four days a week, MPs and staff get a free lunch, a hot and cold buffet, with an entree under heat lamps. On Tuesday, the day that we learned about the auditors getting free pizza, MPs enjoyed free chicken under puff pastry.

When they eat that free lunch, its value is not deducted from the unreceipted $90-a-day per diem they get to cover their meals when they’re in Ottawa. In one divorce proceeding, an MP’s spouse alleged that her husband tried to always eat the free food so he could pocket the per diems.

MPs get free plane tickets, a Via Rail pass, a generous housing allowance, a $5,000 hospitality budget, and get to go on overseas junkets, some paid for by taxpayers, some by foreign governments and organizations.

Some MPs likely game the system in the same way that has senators contemplating prison: claiming expenses for trips they didn’t make and fiddling their housing arrangements to allow them to steal from the taxpayer.

Unless MPs are a lot more honest than their colleagues in the Senate, or Commons officials are much more effective, there could be a fair bit of petty thievery.

There is little chance we will ever find out, though, because the House has not asked Ferguson to go through its books as he is going through the Senate’s books, and the horrible spectacle of ruined careers and reputations at the other end of Centre Block will surely not encourage MPs to invite Ferguson to bring the same havoc in their lives.

It’s too bad, though, because although it is sick-making to see politicians get skewered for petty expense fiddling, it does encourage good behaviour in their colleagues. And goodness knows how much money is wasted in the House of Commons, which last year spent $414 million on free chicken and wine and paint and salaries and so on.

The auditor general has free rein to snoop elsewhere in government, which is absolutely necessary, because MPs aren’t doing their job of reviewing spending, and nobody else can force civil servants to open their books.

Only parliamentary spending is beyond the reach of the auditor general and access-to-information laws.

The best possible outcome of this mess in the Senate would be a change that opens the books on the Hill.

National Post

• Email: smaher@postmedia.com

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