OTTAWA – Sen. Pamela Wallin’s final bill is in — and it’s a whopper.
The embattled Saskatchewan senator and former Conservative caucus member was informed Wednesday that she’ll have to reimburse the Senate a grand total of $138,970 for ineligible travel expense claims.
Wallin was already on the hook for $121,348 after an independent audit of her travel expenses, released last week. The auditors advised another $21,000 in questionable claims should be reviewed by the Senate’s internal economy committee.
Those claims involved travel to what the self-described “activist senator” deemed “networking events” and other special events, including speeches.
The committee concluded Wednesday that Wallin should pay back most of those additional claims, worth $17,622.
The decision comes as no surprise. Last week’s audit report noted that the internal economy committee’s steering committee had already reviewed Wallin’s travel claims for so-called networking events and had concluded that “while occasional exceptional occurrences for special events might be acceptable, the volume and pattern of the events listed (by Wallin) would not qualify them as Senate business.”
The audit report, which looked at Wallin’s claims dating back to 2009, listed 13 networking events, which Wallin had described as primarily lunch or dinner meetings with unidentified representatives of the business, arts and charitable communities. Among them, were meetings with:
— “Chair of a media corporation, regarding media issues.”
— “Artist, performer, university lecturer and member of Arts Council, to discuss the federal government’s policy regarding culture.”
— “An executive of Canada Post to discuss the business and technological challenges facing Canada Post.”
— “Leading Canadian businessman and investor … (to discuss) the business climate and issues of concern to the investment community.”
She also claimed expenses for attending a private dinner party in an individual’s home, which “included senior members of the business and legal community” who discussed “a full range of issues.”
And she claimed for attending a reception in a private home for an “internationally known individual… historian, essayist, former dissident, public intellectual and editor of a newspaper” who had been involved in Poland’s Solidarity movement.
Wallin has already reimbursed the Senate for $38,000 in ineligible travel claims and has promised to repay the rest once ordered to do so by the Senate, despite her insistence that the audit was “fundamentally flawed and unfair.”
The Senate committee last week alerted the RCMP — which is already investigating ineligible living allowances claimed by senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb — to the conclusions of the Wallin audit.