Senate and senators slammed for spending circus
Auditor General Michael Ferguson speaks to the media in Ottawa, April 28, 2015. (CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters)
OTTAWA — Auditor General Michael Ferguson gave the country's senators no place to hide Tuesday in a report that damns the upper chamber for the lousy way it handles public money and the ease with which dozens of senators used public money for private purposes.
Some senators billed taxpayers for fishing trips, golf tournaments, family dinners, and who knows what, the auditor general reported.
Some senators refused to co-operate with the auditor general, provided contradictory information or would not respond to requests for information, and, as a result, there is no way to know how the money was spent.
For nine of those senators, Ferguson thinks the RCMP should probe their spending.
Ferguson flagged the spending of 21 other senators for more scrutiny by the Senate itself.
And yet, almost all those 21 quarrelled in writing with Ferguson.
"I completely disagree with the findings," Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais wrote in his official response.
Despite the hostile reception, Ferguson stuck to his guns.
"We found that the oversight, accountability, and transparency around the expenses of senators' expenses were quite simply not adequate," Ferguson said. "We also found that senators did not always consider the requirement to ensure that expenses funded through the public purse were justifiable, reasonable, and appropriate."
He recommended more spending controls be imposed -- something Leo Housakos, speaker of the chamber, told reporters has already been done.
Ferguson and a team of auditors combed through 80,000 expense claims made over a two-year period from April, 2011 to March 2013 by 116 senators.
The audit itself took two years to complete and cost $23.5 million. If all the senators accused of misspending paid back every dime flagged by the auditor general, taxpayers would recoup $990,236.
"Yes it cost a lot of money," said NDP MP Charlie Angus. "But I think Canada wants to be sure its institutions ... are not riddled with corruption."
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THE NASTY NINE
Auditor General Michael Ferguson on Tuesday recommended the files of the following senators, current and former, be referred to the RCMP for investigation. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu last week resigned from the Conservative caucus in the Senate and will sit as an Independent.
Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu (former Cons.)
paid back: $908
Colin Kenny (former Lib.)
Sharon Carstairs (Lib. - retired)
Marie-P. Charette Poulin (Lib. - retired)
paid back: $5,606
Rose-Marie Losier-Cool (Lib. - retired)
Donald Oliver (Cons. - retired)
paid back: $23,395
William Rompkey (Lib. - retired)
Gerry St. Germain (Cons. - retired)
paid back: $468
Rod Zimmer (Lib. - retired)
TWENTY ONE PROBLEMS
Ferguson recommended the files of the following 21 current and former senators be referred to a special senate oversight committee for further study.
Claude Carignan (Cons.)
owed: $3,516 - paid back in full
James Cowan (Lib.)
owed: $10,397 - paid back in full
Jean-Guy Dagenais (Cons.)
still owes: $3,538
Joseph Day (Lib.)
still owes: $19,634
Nicole Eaton (Cons.)
owed $3,489 - paid back in full
Leo Housakos (Cons.)
owed $8,319 - paid back in full
Janis Johnson (Cons.)
still owes $22,706
Noel Kinsella (Cons.)
paid back: $262
Sandra Lovelace Nicholas (Lib.)
still owes: $75,227
Elaine McCoy (Lib.)
still owes: $10,298
Terry Mercer (Lib.)
still owes: $29,338
Pana Merchant (Lib.)
paid back: $511
Lowell Murray (Cons.)
still owes: $16,300
Dennis Patterson (Cons.)
paid back: $9,223
Robert Peterson (Lib.)
still owes: $11,493
Don Plett (Cons.)
paid back: $2,975
Vivienne Poy (Lib.)
still owes: $15,317
Nancy Greene Raine (Cons.)
paid back: $2,386
Nick Sibbeston (Lib.)
still owes: $50,102
Terry Stratton (Cons.)
paid back: $60
David Tkachuk (Cons.)
paid back: $3,920