While her parliamentary colleagues passed 18 bills into law during a frenzied rush to summer in June 2009, Sen. Pamela Wallin, the former TV anchor now embroiled in scandal over improper expense claims, spent much of that month in the skies.
The details of Wallin’s furious travel schedule covering that time period fill just three of the 95 pages of the Deloitte audit submitted to the Senate, but they raise serious questions about how she claimed to spend her time as a senator.
Consider the four days starting June 8, during which Wallin’s schedule took her back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto four times at a cost of $2,870.55. (Incidentally, that’s despite the fact that senators, their spouses and children all receive free travel on Via Rail, including upgrades to business class.)
Her office told auditors that, while in Toronto, Wallin participated in two meetings on Senate business—one with a World Bank official, the other with a New York-based marketing firm. A Deloitte audit found no evidence those meetings occurred, but did discover Wallin attended a University of Guelph convocation ceremony in her capacity as the school’s chancellor. Deloitte said Wallin should pay back almost every penny she claimed on that trip.
Within days, she was back in the air on another round trip between Toronto and Ottawa, and then, later in the month, the senator travelled to Calgary on private business, and eventually to Saskatoon and Wadena, Sask., where she maintains her primary residence. In Saskatoon, Wallin rented a car for 11 days and billed the Senate.
In total, Wallin initially claimed $11,835.73 in travel expenses for June 2009, of which Deloitte determined she must pay back $8,223.68. So far, the senator has reimbursed less than one-third that amount.
If that month had marked the end of Wallin’s questionable expense-account claims, she might not be facing an RCMP investigation today. But the Deloitte audit is filled with such examples. In 2011, for instance, Wallin billed taxpayers for four flights between Ottawa and Toronto over a three-day stretch starting on Halloween. Her claims added up to a whopping $4,414.11. Of that, Deloitte said she should repay roughly $3,070, which she did in February.
Over nearly four years, Wallin dinged taxpayers for $532,508 in travel. The eagle-eyed Deloitte auditors, who pored over every receipt, calendar and claim they could find, calculated more than $121,000 in improperly claimed expenses. The vast majority of the time, they found Wallin had conducted private business, not Senate business, while on her trips. Often, auditors simply found no proof Wallin had attended meetings she’d claimed were legitimate business. Wallin, who claims the audit was “fundamentally flawed and unfair,” paid back $38,369.