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Senate sends Pamela Wallin’s expenses audit to RCMP

Wallin’s travel restricted, claims monitored for at least a year


 

Patrick Doyle/CP

OTTAWA – Partisan Conservative fundraisers, a short hop to catch a flight to the sunny Caribbean and glitzy awards galas are just some of the expenses Sen. Pamela Wallin billed to taxpayers under the guise of Senate business.

The beleaguered Saskatchewan senator now faces the prospect of an RCMP probe as well as paying back more than $82,000 after an audit flagged a host of inappropriate travel claims dating back to her very first days in the upper chamber.

Wallin’s ability to travel on the taxpayers’ dime will also be restricted for at least the next 12 months, members of the Senate committee that reviewed the audit said Tuesday as they pledged to keep a close eye on her future claims.

“I believe I can speak for my colleagues on both sides when I say that we found aspects of the Deloitte report very troubling,” said Liberal Sen. George Furey, one of three senators on a steering committee who reported on the audit.

“We’re very conscious of our responsibility as committee members to ensure that all Senate resources are properly allocated.”

The former broadcaster has called the audit into her travel claims “fundamentally flawed and unfair,” and her attorney has complained to auditing firm Deloitte about constant leaks of confidential information.

“Virtually nothing has happened on this file involving communications from Sen. Wallin or Deloitte to the (Senate) committee which has not in some form or another found its way into the media,” lawyer Terrence O’Sullivan wrote.

Wallin’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

The audit examined every flight Wallin took over 1,369 days between Jan. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2012, between Ottawa and Saskatchewan, the province she represents — many of them with stopovers in Toronto of at least one night.

Deloitte auditors flagged $121,348 in inappropriate expenses and called for further review of nearly $21,000 in additional claims. Wallin has already repaid $38,000, and has since promised to reimburse any disallowed expenses — with interest — out of her own pocket.

The auditors also determined that $390,182 of the $532,508 claimed by Wallin for travel was appropriate.

Among the claims flagged in the audit as inappropriate:

— Billing $81 when she drove from her home in Wadena, Sask., to Saskatoon on April 15, 2009, to speak at a $100-a-plate fundraiser thrown by four Conservative riding associations;

— Billing $1,281 to fly to Toronto on Jan. 16, 2010, to attend a luncheon where the chief executive of Porter Airlines — a company on whose board Wallin sits as a member — gave a speech;

— Billing $230 to drive from Wadena to Saskatoon on April 15, 2011, to attend a Conservative fundraiser during the federal election campaign, and $235 for another campaign event four days later;

— Billing $2,042 to give the convocation address at the University of Guelph — where she was chancellor — on June 15, 2011;

— Claiming $511 to fly to Toronto on Feb. 1, 2012, to catch a flight to Punta Cana, where she spoke at a women’s conference;

— Claiming $741 to fly to Toronto on Feb. 25, 2012, to be a judge at the National Business Book Awards;

— Billing $1,620 to fly to Toronto on Mar. 25, 2011, to attend the Juno awards as a special guest.

The Deloitte audit also found that changes had been made retroactively to entries in Wallin’s electronic Microsoft Outlook calendar once the audit process had begun.

The report on the audit, which has been forwarded to the RCMP, makes specific reference to the inconsistencies in Wallin’s calendar entries as one issue the Senate itself can’t properly investigate.

“Over the course of its review, Deloitte encountered inconsistencies between the information obtained from Sen. Wallin and her executive assistant, and what they subsequently obtained through research and Outlook calendar backups,” says the steering committee report.

“Examples of these inconsistencies provided by Deloitte in its report elicit serious concerns that your committee considers cannot be addressed and resolved internally.”

Wallin says the discrepancies were the result of a formatting process that was aimed at co-operating with the audit, not subverting it.

“At no time did I attempt to mislead Deloitte in any way,” Wallin — who was not present during the review — said Monday. “We knew that Deloitte had a copy of the original calendars available to them at all times.”

Wallin claims Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk, the former chair of the Senate internal economy committee, told her to make the changes to her calendar. Tkachuk said he only told Wallin to omit irrelevant information about travel expenses from her electronic calendar.

A spokeswoman for the RCMP refused to talk about the audit or how it intends to proceed.

“We have not yet received the referral but when we do, other than to acknowledge receipt, our response remains: we are not in a position to comment on the matter,” Cpl. Lucy Shorey wrote in an email.

The ongoing Senate expense scandal — which has already ensnared former Conservatives Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau as well as former Liberal Mac Harb — has been a persistent black eye for the upper chamber.

Senators are being openly jeered as a result, Furey acknowledged.

“Colleagues that I spoke to during the summer tell me that everywhere they go, they’re being mocked,” he said.

“They find it very difficult. It’s a difficult time for the institution, no question.”


 

Senate sends Pamela Wallin’s expenses audit to RCMP

  1. So, Wallin admits there is money improperly received, but
    she disputes the amount that Deloitte has calculated. Further, she has
    pledged to repay the amount once a correct figure has been determined.
    This has been her position all along.

    She thinks the Senate is a soapbox for issues and causes
    that interest her. This has caused her to travel just about anywhere to
    make a speech. Somebody needs to take her aside and straighten her out.

    She is an appointed member of the Senate, not an elected
    member of Parliament. She shouldn’t be travelling anywhere to give a
    speech in support of government policy or legislation; there are elected
    government ministers available to do that function.

    Her perception of her role in the Senate is wrong. Her role
    is the examination and review of legislation proposed by Parliament.
    It’s a desk job. Lots of committee meetings. That’s it. Senators, as
    appointed public servants in an independent body, are administrators
    whose task is the review of legislation in the interest of the country,
    not any political party, or any special interest group.

    But it isn’t surprising. Harper appointed rookies that he
    ought to have known would be largely hopeless. His appointees had no
    government experience. He is responsible for this mess as much as
    individual senators.

    The PM has the power to appoint senators. That is a good
    thing, but common sense would suggest that he shouldn’t need to be told
    to choose individuals who understand government and possess some
    experience in it.

    • The bigger problem: These expenses were all approved. If they were inappropriate, someone should have paid better attention.

  2. While I am in full support of audits of all government expense reports and repayment if necessary, I do not think this is a matter for the RCMP. The legal system in Canada is going to do little to prosecute these people, but the threat of legal action may stop some from speaking out or coming forward. Lets continue the audits and start looking at expense report for all government employees over the past 7-years.

    • Fraud is fraud. Just because these people sit in some monarchic relic shouldn’t make them immune from police investigation or prosecution.

      • Agreed. But if you know no real punishment will be given, wouldn’t your efforts be better spent getting the money back, making sure it can’t happen again and removing them from office.

    • The issue here is the senators DISHONESTY and DISLOYALTY to their boss, Steven Harper, what more can be told about this incompetent leader who cannot even control his employees…

      • You can never control your employees, but you are responsible for their actions.

  3. Wallin’s claims were improper, not “inappropriate”, which is a mealy-mouthed term now used for everything we consider wrong. Wearing brown shoes with a blue suit is inappropriate.

  4. Would like to see random spot checks of expenses of other senators. It’s hard to believe that only these 4 were less than diligent with taxpayers’ money given how lax the system is.

  5. The problem here is the unelected Senate, period. It shouldn’t be a reward.

    • No. You cannot tar all senators with Wallin’s misdeeds. Besides, it is not like elected officials never breach the public trust.

      • I’m not saying all senators are bad — but the Senate is still a problem. Where’s the oversight in appointing people? Why don’t we have an appointed senate. Or at least a nominating process?

        • “but the Senate is still a problem.” Stated as fact, but is only your (obviously shared by others) opinion. If I were to state my opinion as indubitable fact, would you unquestioningly accept it? I thought not.

      • I absolutely agree with you. And of course elected officials screw up. Note that elected officials are appointing senators. But I still think the way the senate appointments work now is problematic. The governing party can appoint senators who agree with them. And reward cronies and personal friends.

        And the idea of a journalist being rewarded by one party or another with an appointment is equally troubling — yes, to me (I’m not stating my opinion as fact).

    • The problem is a combination of entitlement, conceit, and probably narcissism felt by some senators. $1281 for a flight from Ottawa from Toronto? I could buy a ticket for a flight tomorrow for $688 return on Porter, at their cheapest rate. The only way I could push it to $1281 would be to purchase their most expensive ticket available. For a 30 minute flight. She probably honestly believes that event was Senate business, because she’s the celebrity Senator board member, and everyone is clamoring for an appearance from the celebrity Senator board member (in her mind). And of course she must travel with the most expensive ticket possible, to keep up appearances.

      I don’t know how many other Senators combine the same level of entitlement, self-importance, and narcissism, but I’d wager it’s more than the four being investigated thus far.

      Of course, another problem is the manner in which people get appointed. Party hacks, bagmen, failed candidates, and campaigners probably don’t make for the most impartial chamber of sober second thought.

      • that’s a good point, these senators think they are very influential people and therefore are worth more than any other Canadians but we all know why Harper appointed them to that house of clowns…

  6. Awwww…. geeeee…. garsh and shuckssss… Clearly Pamela will avoid almost all of the fraudulent shame she perpetrated on Canadians by denying the exact amount of the funds she embezzled or did not embezzle.. it proves partial innocence!

    Pamela, you are a liar and a thief.. trying to deny the degree of the exact amount of your theft is not the point!

    Shame, shame, shame!

  7. not much different than making native chiefs show expenses

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