Senator Roméo Dallaire says he was asked to pay back “a couple thousand bucks” in expenses during his nine years in the upper chamber, but Dallaire says those faulty claims were discovered by his own staff or Senate finance officials and had nothing to do with the current audit of senators’ spending.
Dallaire spoke with Evan Solomon, host of CBC Radio’s The House, after announcing this week he would give up his Senate seat to devote more time to humanitarian work. He revealed that he, like other senators, has filed faulty expense claims while in office.
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“You know, I used a credit card for … buying something or acquiring or paying for something while on a trip. And I got back to the office and say no, this one’s inappropriate,” Dallaire said in an interview airing Saturday.
“So, either we send the cheque immediately with the claim or the finance people come back and say no, you couldn’t use it for that. So, we pay immediately whatever it was charged inappropriately to the Crown.”
Dallaire could not say how much money he has repaid voluntarily. His office later provided figures showing the senator paid back expenses totalling $3,947 between November 2011 and May 2014. The expenses deemed ineligible included an airline ticket, credit card purchases and personal calls on Dallaire’s Senate-issued Blackberry.
There have been errors on both sides, Dallaire said. He told Solomon the Senate paid him back somewhere in the neighbourhood of $18,000 in 2005. The reimbursement came about, he said, because of mistakes in his Senate allowances.
Dallaire repeatedly emphasized that all this is completely separate from an audit being conducted by the auditor general, who is going through senators’ books with a fine-tooth comb.
The outgoing senator said he has met with auditors three times and expects another session in the next two weeks. That audit has added extra work and stress for him and his staff. But he said they have been providing auditors with everything requested.
Dallaire said the auditors have not asked him to pay back any money, but added he will do so if mistakes are discovered.
“If you guys, in the end, find that what we did is not appropriate to the rules, then you raise it and I’ll pay it back,” he told Solomon.
Dallaire spoke about spending rules that were in place prior to the Senate scandal and likened them to an honour system.
“It was very much based on that sort of concept, that you did things right,” he said.
“But it didn’t mean that you didn’t sometimes make mistakes.”
Despite all the stress and strain, Dallaire repeated that neither the audit nor the Senate expense scandal had anything to do with his decision to step down.