Social Services Minister June Draude repays London car costs

After her transportation costs on a London trip were criticized by the Opposition, Social Services Minister June Draude says she will repay Saskatchewan taxpayers.

Cabinet secretary Rick Mantey booked car that cost $4,400 over 4 days

June Draude was surrounded by reporters in the rotunda of the Legislative Building on Thursday. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

After her transportation costs on a London trip were criticized by the Opposition, Social Services Minister June Draude says she is repaying Saskatchewan taxpayers.

According to the NDP, which obtained details of Draude's travel expenses through a Freedom of Information request, the minister's trip included four days for a car service at a cost of $3,600.

The government revealed Thursday that the full costs were in fact $4,400, but Draude and cabinet secretary Rick Mantey, who accompanied her on the trip and booked the car, had previously paid $800 of the total with their own money.

She was repeatedly questioned about the expenses Wednesday and on Thursday morning, she said she would repay the  $3,600.

Draude said after giving it some thought, she decided it was not necessary to hire a car service to get to her London meetings.

"The cost of the car service was not part of the expense claim that I submitted, so I was not aware of the cost until yesterday. That said, I am responsible," Draude said in a written statement.

So last night, I took a closer look at the cost of the car service. I thought about the meetings I had in London and clearly, there were other ways I could have gotten to those meetings at less cost."

Rick Mantee, the official who booked June Draude's car, is cabinet secretary and Usher of the Black Rod (shown here). (Stefani Langenegger/CBC)

In the legislature Thursday, NDP MLA David Forbes was asking more questions about Draude's trip to Ghana and London, England, from June 4 to June 15, 2013.

She was in Ghana to speak at a conference of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She was in London for four days on a layover from the Ghana flight and also to conduct some business as social services minister.

Cabinet secretary Mantey, who is also Saskatchewan's representative at Buckingham Palace, later left London to go to the Ukraine as part of his duties according to the government.

In addition to the $3,600 car cost, there was also a $200 bill for a lunch Draude had with a friend in London. 

"Did she use the limo service for sightseeing or shopping with her friend?" Forbes asked in the legislature. He also asked if that was why Draude is paying back the money now.

Premier Brad Wall responded to most of the questions.

He said Draude is "well-reputed" in the social services field and is known be careful with taxpayers' dollars.

"This is a woman of character. This is a woman of integrity," Wall said.

Speaking to reporters later, Draude said she's paying back the money because she used the car for "personal use" part of the time, but she refused to go into details.

"After hours ... what I do in these times, that's up to me and my family," she said.

 Wall said he has disciplined Mantey for booking the car. Mantey is on a form of probation for six months where he will not be able to book travel on his own.