Sheila Fraser's audit of MP expenses vetoed by Speaker and all four parties

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Unionist
Sheila Fraser's audit of MP expenses vetoed by Speaker and all four parties

... because they have absolutely nothing to hide, so an audit would obviously be a waste of precious taxpayers' money!

Unionist

[url=http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/05/14/fraser-expenses-management-boa... reject request to audit expenses[/url]

Quote:
Fraser — best known to Canadians as the bean counter who blew the lid off the Liberal sponsorship scandal in 2004 — asked almost a full year ago if her office could conduct a "performance audit" on $533 million of annual spending by both the House of Commons and Senate.

Recent examinations of politicians' spending habits in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Britain have exposed some sensational examples of waste and greed.

Fraser has maintained she is not on a "witch hunt" and that her audits are "there to help improve management processes."

The board — which includes MPs from all four parties, with Commons Speaker Peter Milliken as chairman — declined. The board, which deliberates in secret, stated there are already sufficient "control mechanisms" in place.

"All past audits have resulted in an unqualified audit opinion, which is the optimal situation," said the release.

Access-to-information laws don't apply to MP budgets and their expenses are subject to financial audits that don't show exactly where the money goes.

Tommy_Paine

 

The phrase "witch hunt"  was put in quotes like it would be a bad thing in this case.

 

It's outrageous, and I will insist upon assuming the worst of all-- ALL-- our M.P.'s.

 

Of course they have been stealing from us.  Why else would the go to such lengths to hide their expenses?

 

 

 

 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Just think of the good press the NDP would have gotten if they had agreed to the AG's request. Opportunity wasted.

Doug

Someone has probably expensed something trivial and/or embarassing.

NDPP

MPs Dodge Questions About Barring Auditor

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/auditor-general-fires-back-...

"MPS announced this week they don't want the Auditor General to look at their books. Now they don't want to talk about it. Friday afternoon saw MPs rushing for the exits in advance of a one week break to avoid reporters' questions about the decision.."

we actually pay these people to do this to us..?

Stockholm

Doug wrote:

Someone has probably expensed something trivial and/or embarassing.

Chances are that just about every single MP has at some time or other expensed something that is perfectly legal but which is either trivial or embarrassing enough to merit an above the fold headline in the Toronto Sun or the Star. A couple of months ago the Toronto Star had a scremaing headline that was bigger than what they used the day after 9/11 to announce that Adam Giambrone had taken a $10 cab ride when there was a busline that he could have taken and then a few days later another 9/11 sized above the fold headline that some other city councillor expensed rental of a costume to wear to a charity costume party he had been invited to.

I already know that someone from the Toronto Sun steals the garbage from in front of the Layton/Chow household every week in a vain attempt to catch them putting something recyclable in the garbage so they can run an above the fold headline about it. If the yellow press got their hands on every single receipt - I guarantee that it would be a Pandora's box of headline grabbing things like "Charlie Angus (just to pick a random name) expensed a quarter breast and fries at Swiss Chalet - even though if he had ordered the Festive Special he would have saved "the taxpayer" a dollar and gotten a Toblerone chocolate bar as well."

Then the next six months fo political coverage in Canada would be dominated by a "gotcha politics" witch-hunt with each newspaper tryting to outdo each other over who can uncover the silliest expense claim.  The net result of it all would be no discussion of any real issues, people all coming to the conclusion that "all politicians are crooks", further declines in voter turnout (which only benefits the Conservatives) and you get the picture. It would also feed into more Tea Party-style anti-government hysteria.

I know this is an unpopular position for me to take - but those are the reasons why I think its just as well that Sheila Fraser isn't going to go on a witch hunt of MPs expenses.

Unionist

Stockholm is brilliant - it's confirmed yet again. Here's what he's done:

1. Predicted that Fraser would turn up lots of examples of fraud and theft of public funds (which he calls "trivial", "embarrassing", "silliest", etc.).

2. Predicted that all the "important" "real" politics (defunding women's organizations, threatening people who expose Israel, preparing to ban abortion, creatively covering up complicity in war crimes, stealing from the poor to give to the rich, etc.) would be pushed aside for 6 months by shrieking media.

3. Predicted that voters would conclude that all politicians are crooks - which would somehow benefit the Conservatives (ok, maybe "brilliant" was a bit hasty - I'll blame Stock's crystal ball rather than his legendary powers of analysis).

4. Conclusion: Support all the MPs in their rejection of transparency and public accountability.

It's brilliant all right.

The only part I don't get is: "I know this is an unpopular position for me to take."

Huh? Unpopular? Name me another position that enjoys the unanimous support of all parties in the House!!!

Doug

Sure, we'd have endless articles about MPs expensing stupid stuff...but then MPs might learn not to expense stupid stuff!

Stockholm

Actually my point was that I predict that there will be no "fraud" or "theft" at all - just a lot of perfectly legal expense claims that the yellow press will go haywire trying to make into a story.

MPs already have to submit individual receipts for every expense to the internal bean-counting civil servants who run the Hill - and by all accounts they very routinely reject a lot of expenses that they feel don't meet the guidelines. The thing is its perfectly legal to order the second least expensive as opposed to the least expensive item on the menu and expense it - but that won't stop the tabloids from making it into an above the fold headline in an attempt to take down politicians they don't like and to sell newspapers.

Tommy_Paine

 

 

I don't doubt that each and every M.P. would point to this as the reason, Stockholm.

 

And, I don't doubt that each and every M.P. saying so is a bare faced lying thief.

 

 

Stockholm

Doug wrote:

Sure, we'd have endless articles about MPs expensing stupid stuff...but then MPs might learn not to expense stupid stuff!

DEpends on how you define stupid. On the surface of it - it can seem stupid to expense rental of a costume as a Disney character...but what if you're a city councillor and its part of your job to attend certain events and that's part of the dress code? The yellow press might say "let them pay for it themselves" - well it can cost hundreds of dollars to rent a costume and if you have to incur expenses like that every week - it can add up. I know that many people's attitude towards politicians is like tearing the wings off flies.

Even though there will be no audit this time - I suspect that MPs are probably already changing their habits for the possibility of one in the future. So they are probably already making sure to order the cheapest thing on the menu for fear of the Toronto Sun shrieking that so-and so didn't order the festive special - and they are probably already starting to turn down invitations to events that might involve any direct expenses.

Meanwhile, the only people who would benefot from this kind of witch hunt would be Rob Ford and a few people who want to start a Canadian version of the Tea Party movement.

Fidel

$533 million is a lot of money. But it's nowhere near the kind of corporate welfare payments made to their corporate and banking friends over the years. I don't understand why we should be so upset over this and not the tens of billions of dollars they given away to the corporate sector over the years - and the same one that has basically abandoned any sens of responsibility to create jobs in Canada today.

NDPP

Audit Denied: Betrayal of Canadians

http://thechronicleherald.ca/Editorial/1182419.html

"When an MP misleads the House of Commons, it's cause for censure and discipline. But what are the consequences when Parliament itself misleads the people? We are about to find out.."

Stockholm

We wll find out that there are no consequences. Since all parties agreed that Fraser should not do the "audit" no party can take advantage of the issue so it will be a wash. Maybe if someone forms a single issue party called the "let Sheila Fraser do an MP audit" they get a handful of votes - otherwise - nada.

Unionist

Fidel wrote:

$533 million is a lot of money. But it's nowhere near the kind of corporate welfare payments made to their corporate and banking friends over the years. I don't understand why we should be so upset over this and not the tens of billions of dollars they given away to the corporate sector over the years - and the same one that has basically abandoned any sens of responsibility to create jobs in Canada today.

I'm not upset over it. I think parties should welcome the scrutiny, because what's the worst it would reveal? Not much. Mind you, when it's someone else bilking the public for a lot less than $533 million, [url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/atlantic-provinces/dexter-disappointment-and... get worked up over peanuts[/url]:

Fidel wrote:

Surette makes it sound like it was an NDPer who tried tagging Nova Scotians for an $8000 thousand dollar generator and several thousand dollar big-screen TV. And then the Conservative MPP lied about donating the generator to the senior citizens building. What a low life. I hope his constituents remember not to vote for the crooked Tories next time.

So make up your mind and keep your story straight, please.

remind remind's picture

You know I can honestly say I have not worried for 1 minute what individual MP's were spending their "allotments" on, ever.  For any party.

However, feeding those friends and  lobbyists by way of access to tax payer's dollars, is a whole other kettle of fish.

 

Think this whole issue is just a BS propaganda move to get the focus off of the illegal lobbying  going on and the CONing by the CONS

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I doubt most of us have expense accounts, so hearing about well paid MPs with their cushy pensions not open to scrutiny by the AG over their spending likely will piss off a lot of people. If MPs have nothing to hide, then let them be more transparent.

Tommy_Paine

Fidel wrote:

$533 million is a lot of money. But it's nowhere near the kind of corporate welfare payments made to their corporate and banking friends over the years. I don't understand why we should be so upset over this and not the tens of billions of dollars they given away to the corporate sector over the years - and the same one that has basically abandoned any sens of responsibility to create jobs in Canada today.

 

There's no reason one cannot be upset over both, or all the corruption, Fidel.    In fact, it's hard not to see that it isn't all related; and not just the flow of money, either, but other forms of corruption, like Zaccardeli delivering his "real" testimony via manila envelope after stringing along a parliamentary committee the day before, and parliament letting him get away with it-- for one example that just comes to mind at the moment.  I'll probably think of several dozen more after I finish this post.

 

It paints a picture, and it paints a picture of an institution that is rotten to the core, and begging us to do something about it. 

 

But as you said in another thread, Canadians are too polite.

 

 

 

Tommy_Paine

Think this whole issue is just a BS propaganda move to get the focus off of the illegal lobbying  going on and the CONing by the CONS

 

I am less and less sure as time goes by that people like us are very well served by aligning ourselves along the lines of partizan party games.

 

It's political corruption, and they're all politicians.

Tommy_Paine

Oh, that Tommy Paine, he does go on and on, doesn't he?

 

He does:

 

Let us remember not really that long ago, the bleating of David Dingwall "I am entitled to my entitlements".   It was the story of the week at the time, if I recall, and was probably part of the on going focus on "Liberal" corruption following Ad Scam. 

 

Thing is, poor Dingwall was right.  He WAS entitled to his entitlements, and he did nothing wrong.  Nothing wrong legally, of course.  He controvined no laws that were written... Lo and Behold! by his buddies!  

I have to ask, if we elected the assassin party, and they legalized murder, would murder then be, like, Okay?   I'm betting your answer is substantively different from anyone connected with Parliament these days.

Name escapes me at the moment, but we have a Senator who used the RCMP, and an RCMP that allowed itself to be used to intimidate and harrass an ordinary citizen who drew question to the Senators use of public land.   To no consequence to any of the wrong doers.

 

Thing is, for these things to happen, there has to be a level of feeling in regards to entitlement and privelege in our leadership that western civilization has perhaps not seen since before the French Revolution.    There are too many that believe-- with good cause, as evidenced by the selective blindness of law enforcement, judicial system and parliament, that they are above the law.

At the very least, being as charitable as I can possibly be, our leadership acts as if it has had a lobotomy in the part of the brain that discerns right from wrong.

 

In good times, when the money is flowing this is all fun and games, or just plain politics.  But too many Canadians are out of work or working for substantially less-- being the ones taking the consequences for at least a generation of legislative malfeasance on the economy.

 

And, next, these "you can't see my expense account"  M.P's will be travelling the land, decrying, or backing, why we need this or that cut to your kids or grandkids education, or to the neonatal care unit, or the kid's cardiac unit in your town.

 

Why have we not strung these bastards up by the thumbs?

 

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I think the Auditor General is one smart cookie and her office has smart folks too, and if they feel there is something here that needs to be looked at, then I'm inclined to believe them.

Pogo Pogo's picture

I believe that MP's expenses are already audited and that the auditior's report is made public.   I think what Sheila Fraser is proposing is a performance audit - questioning the cost effectiveness of choices.  I would think if people are able to see the dollars (I believe that the NDP is proposing that the posted categories be expanded), that is enough for voters to make a value judgement.  I would have trouble though having an accountant provide judgement on whether my MP spent travel dollars to support a protest outside of his or her riding.

KeyStone

Well, perhaps the information could be provided in a way where some compromises could be made.

What if, instead of looking at each individual, it was all just lumped together and then categorized.
Obviously, the MP's who thought that this information would all be kept hidden were unaware it could suddenly fall into the public domain. Consequently, there are likely all sorts of $200 bottles of wine and $1000 steak dinners on the expense list.

Allowing the AG to list the expenses, even without the names, would give Canadians enough outrage to demand that MP's be held accountable for their spending in the future. And the truth is, this is no small amount of money. It makes the money that Harper wants to save by eliminating public vote-based funding to policical parties look like a drop in the bucket.

I say, just give us the information without the names, and then start being accountable on July 1st, this year.
At least then, they know that they will have to answer to taxpayers before they have that $200 bottle of wine.

Full disclosure would have been nice, but the MP's are never going to agree to it.
The NDP could have looked really good here, but the other parties would likely turn it around by challenging them to release their own expenses, since they are such great proponest of disclosure, which could be awkward if the NDP refuse.

No Yards No Yards's picture

Far as I'm concerned there should be nothing done by our government or its agents that the citizens should not know about .. and that includes all government contract, all military decisions, and all policing and justice decisions.

If the government thinks they have a legitimate reason to hold back something from the people, then they should have to apply, and reapply annually, for permission to do so.

If this means that the "yellow media" will make hay over trivial issues, then it's time to fix the mdeia, not hide more things from them.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture
Tommy_Paine

Layton's assertion that it's allready transparent is wrong.  Without access to reciepts to back up the numbers reported on line, the numbers are meaningless.

 

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/803425--auditor-battling-otta...

 

“There would be a testing of samples of transactions,” she explained to nervous senators, whom she also proposed to audit. “If we find one or two things that are perhaps not absolutely perfect, we do not publicize that, or make a big deal about it. If there is a complete lack of any kind of procedure, then it would obviously be more significant.”

 

So, it seems it's not nickle and dime stuff being blown out of preportion by the Toronto Sun that politicians are afraid of, it's a complete lack of any kind of procedure that they want to keep from the auditor.

Stockholm

I'm not sure where you get the idea that there is a "complete lack of any kind of procedure". There is actaully a very detailed procedure for accounting for expennses and that procedure gets audited every year by KPMG.

YOu MIGHT be able to argue that there are flaws in the current procedure - but there IS a procedure.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

The pundits on CTV's QP just said there's no way for the MPs to win this, because the AG is the credibility Gold Standard, and Craig Oliver repeated that Gilles Duceppe is the only party leader to agree to the AG's request.

Tommy_Paine

 

I get the idea that there's a complete lack of procedure from the M.P.s and Senators.   And like I said, if there's no reciepts, the numbers reported to Parliament and posted on line could be made from whole cloth-- and I have little doubt that in some cases they are.

Of particular interest would be the accounts of senators, who already enjoy much less scrutiny of their behavior regarding conflict of interest.

 

Stockholm

They do submit receipts to the officers of the house who reimburse MPs for theiur expenditures - and those officers routinely question and/or reject receipts for things they feel are not justifiable.

The panel on QP is right that there is no way for the MPs to "win" the battle of public opinion. But the fact is that by the time of the next election, this will be ancient history. From the point of view of MPs from all parties - one day of negative stories is preferable to six months of tabloids running daily above the fold headlines about who ordered white meat instead of dark at Swiss Chalet costing "the taxpayer" an extra dollar.

Tommy_Paine

 

Well, as Fraser stated she's not interested in those kinds of irregularities, in fact the article said that Jaffer's use of his wife's blackberry wouldn't have been detected.

 

No, the M.P.s and senators are not worried about what you would have them to be worried about.  There's more afoot. 

We have an hubris laden group with expense accounts they don't want an auditor to scrutinize, a group that swims in systemic corruption.  

 

I think all we need here is Occam's butterknife.

Pogo Pogo's picture

But question to me is more of scope.  MP's are currently audited and the results are published.  My limited experience with audits is that they always test by checking the receipts etc... (to differing degrees).  When Sheila Fraser does a performance audit she looks at the effectiveness of the expense as well.  This I think is where the MP's are drawing the line.  Should someone be told that they are wasting taxpayer money because they choose to pay their cleaning staff a living wage?

bekayne

MPs want expenses sealed to keep lawsuits quiet: Szabo

http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=2580873

Polunatic2

I'm of mixed feelings on this one. Of course I support accountability and transparency. However, the tone of the discussion in Toronto has taken a nasty turn with Councillor and now mayoral candidate Rob Ford who questions the legitimacy of ANY city councillors expenses. He is rich and pays his expenses out of his own pocket and then attacks others for using their taxpayer funded expense accounts. He doesn't report to taxpayers in his ward with mailers. The implication is that only the rich should be in politics and that they should dig into their own pockets. 

Tommy_Paine

"Liberal MP Paul Szabo said one of the reasons the Board of Internal Economy, the secretive House of Commons' administrative committee, refused to allow the auditor general to audit their books is due to concerns involving a "number of lawsuits," including sexual harassment and wrongful dismissals brought against MPs each year and paid for by taxpayers.

fctAdTag("bigbox",MyGenericTagVar,1);

"If they were opened to the auditor general and open to the public, all of a sudden people would jump to conclusions without having all the facts," he said.

"If you identify the member, or the law firm or all this other stuff, all of a sudden people could say ... what's wrong with this member, this member is getting sued all the time," he said."

 

Told ya there was more afoot.

Let's remember back to then Alberta Finance Minister Stockwell Day's deffence against a libel suit he brought upon himself by accusing a deffense lawyer of being a pedophile because the lawyer had deffended a pedophile.  This open and shut case, where the lawyer was only asking something like $30,000 in damages ended up costing the Alberta taxpayer something close to a million or so, in legal fees they had to pay to Day's law firm.  A law firm that was all cosy with the Reform Party.

 

It may be as Szabo said, that various M.P.'s don't want to be outted as sexual harrassers or be at the mercy of people suing them for this or that.

 

But it could also expose a nice tight money laundering scheme where suits are dragged out and expensed fantastically in return for that law firm donating nicely to a politcal party or M.P.

Like in  Stockwell Day's case.

 

Polunatic2

Now that's cynical T_P! (not that I don't think the Tories are beneath it).

Tommy_Paine

 

Hey, I'm not making this stuff up from whole cloth or anything.   I'm basing my speculation on what has gone before. 

 

But I guess my speculation all breaks down because it hinges on law firms being, like, greedy and unabashed about siphoning off taxmoney from it's intended purpose.  And, there's not one like that in Canada, according to the Navagator PR firm.

 

You know what scares me Polutonic?  That even when I'm cynical and sardonic-- to a much higher degree than I think anyone else on this board-- when the truth comes out, it more often than not shows me to be rather naive, that they're always worse than I could have imagined.

 

 

George Victor

It has been said that the Senate should be abolished... don't recall what quarter that came from, maybe those liars on the left.  But that would certainly save  a smackeroo or two.   Wouldn't it?

remind remind's picture

A number of posts above summed up my feelings and perceptions on this. Basically, that is.

 

Having believed that the MP's cost expenses were audited every year, I thought this was a redundant move by the AG and only about cost effective spending by the MPs, thereby lowering their expenses by making them fly West Jet, as opposed to Air Canada, for example. 

And I am not interested in that type of manovering at all over bean counting. I would rather have the auditor's time spent looking at campaign donations and cross comparing them with dispensed government contracts, and other such billions of dollars worth of activities. However, if there is no procedure about it all, then that is a different thing, as I thought, read assumed, there would be spending rule applications.

When I had an expense account, I certainly had rules. Government employees who have expense accounts have rules. Also, I was not aware that Senators, above and beyond their ludicrous salaries, had expense accounts, don't know why I never had thought/knew about it...but now I know, I feel they definitely need to be watchdogged.

Yes, it certainly is more than campaign financing amounts, and  basically agree with No Yards above at post # 24. We elect them and they need to be accountable to us at all times, within reason.

And it is interesting, Tommy, that Canadians are tolerating the politicians removal of our rights and their accountability to us, but I am aware that the average citzenry is heavily indoctrinated, in the Pavlovian way, or too self-interested. What it will take to get them/us un-indoctrinated, and aware of equality for all has to happen, who knows.

 

Perhaps a global catastrophe of some type, me thinks.

Tommy_Paine

 

I think the left for the most part has come to love the appointed members of the upper house.    

 

I'm convinced that if one took all the money an accountant could trace to corruption, it probably wouldn't be enough to make an appreciable dent in either the debt or deficit.   Well, it might make a dent, but it's not enough to solve many problems, let alone be some kind of panacea.

 

It's the costs one cannot trace that is hurting us the most.   Dingwall's war cry of the kleptocracy entrenches the idea that government is there to serve the interests of the select few instead of the broader public interests. 

If one does not think this is in fact costing us trillions in terms of money, and eroding our freedoms and liberty, then one is sadly misstaken.

Taken singularly, they are small treasons.  But they add up.

 

 

George Victor

quote:

"If one does not think this is in fact costing us trillions in terms of money, and eroding our freedoms and liberty, then one is sadly misstaken."

 

 

Canada's GDP in 2009: $1.3 trillion.

Tommy_Paine

 

What's the GDP been since 1837?   And what could it have been if we did not carry the overburden of a thieving upper class?

 

Trillions may be an understatement.

Cueball Cueball's picture

According to Maddison, the GDP of Canada in 1840 was 1,972,000,000 (1990) Geary-Khamis dollars (PPP). This would compare with a PPP GDP of 748,363,032,966 Geary-Khamis dollars in 2003, as estimated by the same author.

NDPP

MPs Paranoid About Possible Spending Audit

http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/1183006.html

"Duff Conacher, of the government watchdog group Democracy Watch, agrees that the legislation gives Fraser the right to do an audit..In fact, he says, she will be letting down Canadians if she lets herself be put off. 'She has to do it at least periodically, and given that it's been 20 years, it's far past time and she is failing to fulfil a requirement of her duties under Section 6 of the Auditor General Act' he said. 'And she doesn't need an invitation.'

NDPP

Ex Watchdog Slams MPs Over Audit Rejection

http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/05/19/auditor-general-expenses.html

"Well, I'm mystified,' said Ken Dye, Canada's auditor general from 1981-1991. 'Why are they being reluctant to being transparent? I think they're condemning themselves, telling the world, 'we're afraid that you're going to find something, so we're not going to let you find it.."

NDPP

NDP Faces Growing Pressure to Let Auditor Vet Parliamentary Expenses

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ndp-faces-growing-pressure-...

"NDP leader Jack Layton is facing growing pressure from within his caucus to let the Auditor General go through Parliament's books. Should these voices win out, the NDP's support would tip the scales in favour of Auditor General Sheila Fraser and leave the governing Conservatives as the only party opposed to the idea.."

and if the Cons decide to support the idea it will leave the NDP as the only party opposed to the idea...

Unionist

From NDPP's article:

Quote:

Winnipeg NDP MP Pat Martin, often the first to criticize governments for lacking transparency, said the House of Commons decision is indefensible.

“It goes against everything I stand for,” he said. “We’re getting the shit kicked out of us all across the country.”

Finally, a public admission from Pat Martin that he is full of shit!

 

Caissa

I have never trusted Sheila Fraser. She seems like an empire builder.

Life, the unive...

That is good instinct. 

Fraser is a mostly interested in having her name splashed all over the media.  She ignores big, but 'unsexy' problems and goes for the ones that will get the most attention - for her.  Even if the issues are really small potatoes in the grander scheme of things- like this issue.  Which is pretty small change in terms of government spending, but it sure does get the dander up.

MPs are off-side on this issue IMHO, but that does not mean that Fraser is the paragon of selfless virture- far from it.  Talk to some of the people who used to/or still work for her and you will find a different story than the public face.

Stockholm

I think someone should audit the Auditor-General - for all we know she's been buying mink stoles and expensing them!

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