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Need to know: Auditors called to defend their honour

Deloitte will appear in front of a Senate committee next week

Auditors are the golden boys of democratic accountability. When a scandal engulfs anyone on Parliament Hill, and taxpayer money is at stake, the first call goes to an auditor. Those number crunchers, mostly invisible to the public, are charged with sorting out right from wrong in tricky, politically explosive situations. Their findings are often untouchable. Such was the case when Deloitte audited several troubled senators earlier this year, and their findings were treated as evidence of myriad ethical lapses.

No one ever forced Deloitte to defend its work. The numbers were left to speak for themselves. Usually, that’s where this story would end. But next week, the benevolent accountants will testify at a Senate committee, where they’ll defend the sanctity of their work.

They owe their appearance to Conservative senators. Sen. Irving Gerstein, the Conservative’s chief bagman, is alleged to have attempted some kind of interference of the Deloitte audit into Sen. Mike Duffy’s expense claims. Gerstein, so the RCMP’s theory goes, asked Deloitte partner Michael Runia how the firm could quietly stop probing the senator’s files. Sen. David Tkachuk and Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen also attempted to influence the audit, according to the RCMP.

For its part, Deloitte denies the audit was influenced by anyone outside the firm. Spokespeople have repeatedly confirmed that the firm built an “ethical wall” around its work to prevent leaks. Runia, who is no stranger to the Conservatives because Deloitte is the party’s auditor, says he had no part in Duffy’s audit. Expect to hear a lot about ethical walls next week.

Deloitte may well emerge from the committee hearing as a shining example of impenetrable ethics. They may defend their honour valiantly, and prove that the country’s most trustworthy guardians of democracy are accountants that nobody elected, and who voters trusts without further question. What a bizarre world, where we believe mostly nameless people to keep an eye on those who spend our money. Oh, how little faith we have left in politicians.

 

What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Stephen Harper still denies he knew of the Wright-Duffy payment.
National Post
A national drug panel recommends which treatments provinces should fund.
Toronto Star Rob Ford stayed at a hotel in a neighbourhood known as “crack central.”
Ottawa Citizen Deloitte will defend its auditors at a Senate committee next week.
CBC News Harper’s promised era of accountability is being put to the test.
CTV News Typhoon Haiyan‘s death toll topped 5,000.
National Newswatch See CBC News story.

 

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Insite. The Globe and Mail reports (not online) that the Portland Hotel Society, the charity that runs Insite, the clinic in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side that helps heroin addicts, is facing audits by both of its main funders—B.C. Housing, which announced its probe a couple of weeks ago; and Vancouver Coastal Health—amid concerns that the organization is facing financial challenges.
THE GLOBAL Japan. An underwater volcano erupted off Japan’s southern coast with such force that a new island emerged above the waterline. The Japan Meteorological Agency claimed the islet stretched 200 metres in diameter. The archipelago nation’s chief spokesman said the country “would be happy to have more territory,” assuming the new formation takes hold, which isn’t a sure thing.