British Columbia

Audit triggered by Plecas report will look closely at suspected fraud

B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer expects the entire audit process to take about a year, but says she will release sections of the report as they are completed.

Auditor General expects entire process to take a year, will release sections of report as they are completed

B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer says her report into spending at the Legislative Assembly will take about a year to complete. (Auditor General of British Columbia)

B.C.'s auditor general says her staff will conduct forensic audits in areas where fraud is suspected once her team starts looking into the finances of the B.C. Legislative Assembly and alleged wrongdoing of two of its top officers.

"When you use the word forensic, it's usually in the context of putting a file together for the RCMP when there's suspected fraud and you're looking to determine whether or not that's the case," said Carol Bellringer.

The audit was triggered by a scandalous report into Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz that was released last week by House Speaker Darryl Plecas. 

It documents how the two men allegedly took lavish trips, made unscrupulous expense claims and received outrageous retirement payments, all on the public dime.

Bellringer says she expects the entire audit process to take about a year, although sections of her report will be released as they are completed. 

From left, Speaker Darryl Plecas, suspended Clerk Craig James and suspended Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz. (Gregor Craigie/CBC)

"It's going to be very deep," she said. "But we are trying to break it up into smaller pieces, if you will, so that there can be public reporting on each piece as we complete it, so that everyone's not waiting for a year to hear from us."

Bellringer does not believe her office should have acted sooner. 

"Obviously, there has been quite a lot of public discussion around individual transactions. Those would not be the kinds of things that would come out of a financial audit," she said.

"At the same time, I'm more concerned about the control issues and why the system didn't pick [alleged wrongdoing] up, because there is a fairly rigorous system in place." 

James and Lenz were suspended with pay on Nov 20, 2018. Both deny any wrongdoing.

They are expected to respond to the Plecas report on Feb. 7 after receiving an extension from the original Feb.1 deadline.

See how the explosive events unfolded over two months

Watch the timeline of events from when the scandal was first brought to public attention until the scathing 76-page report was released. 3:49