QP Live: When auditors defended their Duffy audit

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Auditors usually operate in the shadows—not in some nefarious underworld, but simply out of the public eye. Their conclusions aren’t normally scrutinized, and are instead trusted as something close to gospel. When three Deloitte auditors testified at a Senate committee earlier today, the experience must have been bizarre. The trio was there to defend its audit of Sen. Mike Duffy, a document that told the senator how much money, in the form of improperly claimed expenses, he owed taxpayers.

Gary Timm, Alan Stewart and Peter Dent insisted their audit was bulletproof. They explained all the measures meant to prevent prying eyes from the confidential data used to conduct the audit. But they also said a few things that would perk the opposition’s ears:

1. Deloitte senior partner Michael Runia, the Conservative Party’s auditor, made a phone call to Timm and asked how much money Duffy might end up owing. Timm says he cut the call short, and the audit was unaffected.

2. RCMP documents allege that some of Stephen Harper’s staff knew of the audit’s conclusions, weeks before senators were informed. The auditors told the committee they had no idea how anyone in the PMO could have known those details.

3. About a dozen people worked on the Duffy audit. The team of three at the Senate committee don’t know if any of the other auditors, many of whom helped write the report, were called by anyone who might have had an interest in the audit’s conclusions.

As has become normal with all things Wright-Duffy, today’s testimony only raised more questi0ns. Conservative senators stymied attempts to call Runia to testify at the committee. They claimed the Liberals on the committee should leave investigations to the RCMP. Liberals say they smell a cover-up. No doubt Tom Mulcair has fresh questions for the PM.

Just in case the auditors’ loose ends aren’t enough, Mulcair can ask Harper about the RCMP’s claims that they felt political pressure from ministerial staffers when, in the wake of the High River floods, Mounties collected firearms from homes that may have caused threats to public safety. Political pressure from an office in Ottawa? Where could staffers have learned that trick?

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer, which we produced with J-Source. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Chime in on Twitter with #QP.

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Stephen Harper will face questions about Sen. Irving Gerstein’s attempted influence on the Duffy audit, the Conservative Party auditor’s role in that attempt, and likely many other hanging questions in the Wright-Duffy affair. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney will also respond to the RCMP concerns that the force faced political pressure from Ottawa during the High River floods.

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QP Live: When auditors defended their Duffy audit

  1. As an auditor, myself, I know how I would feel if the group I was auditing called and asked about the progress, or any other details.
    I’d hang up on them. It appears the Deloitte folks felt the same way.

    • Good for you, James — I bet you would also want to be able to clear the air, and your good name, by being allowed to provide official testimony that nothing out of order happened under your watch, right?

      • Of course.
        when it comes to the numbers…..there is no such thing as being a partisan.
        Just the facts, Ma’am.

    • It appears the three of the dozen felt that way. We don’t get to hear from the others, for some reason.

    • It was another one of the ‘Deloitte folks’ making the call. I don’t know what to make of that, other than the fact that, presumably, they should know better than to make that call.

  2. Deloitte’s auditors say they feel strongly about interference with an audit, but clearly Deloitte’s managing partner did not.

  3. “RCMP documents allege that some of Stephen Harper’s staff knew of the audit’s conclusions, weeks before senators were informed. The auditors told the committee they had no idea how anyone in the PMO could have known those details.”

    This is the most important question that needs answering. The Gerstein – Runia call that we know about is small beer compared to this. The focus is on the wrong attempt at contact at the moment. The fact that the PMO knew about the audit prior to those who commissioned the report is where ethics and the law was seriously breached.