Nova Scotia

Auditor General investigating MLA expense irregularities

Nova Scotia Auditor General Jacques Lapointe confirmed to CBC News that he is launching a forensic investigation looking into possible irregularities in expense account spending by more than one MLA.

Nova Scotia Auditor General Jacques Lapointe is launching a forensic investigation looking into possible irregularities in expense account spending by more than one MLA.

Lapointe said Friday that he's doing this because he has received new information from the public, the media and from his own fact finding over the past number of days.

Part of the auditor general's work will include matching up receipts with actual purchases, he said. His office will now look at certain expenses filed by some MLAs to make sure the items listed were bought, and that they are where they should be — in constituency offices.

Lapointe would not name whom he is investigating.

But CBC has confirmed that one of them is former Yarmouth Tory MLA Richard Hurlburt. He resigned his seat earlier this week after admitting that he billed taxpayers $8,000 to have a generator installed in his home. He also spent more than $3,000 to buy and install a 40-inch LCD television in his constituency office.

Thursday Premier Darrell Dexter said there was no need for a public inquiry into the issue of MLA spending because there had already been a thorough review by the auditor general and it was time to move onto other issues such as the economy.

Dexter is at the Olympics in Vancouver, and issued a brief statement, saying he would await the findings of the Auditor General's latest probe.

Deputy premier Frank Corbett said the government will cooperate with the investigation.

"He believes that it's necessary and we respect what he has to do, and we will move forward with it and give him anything that he feels he needs to do it," Corbett said.

Last week, the auditor general  released his annual report and slammed the province's expense system, saying several politicians had filed "excessive and unreasonable" claims, in part because of inadequate spending controls.

In his 142-page report,  Lapointe concluded inappropriate claims were made by some politicians for personal items, including Hurlburt's generator.

Some other examples of excessive spending identified by Lapointe included $13,445 for custom-made office furniture, $2,499 for a television and $738 for an espresso coffee machine.

The office furniture was bought by New Democrat MLA John MacDonell, the television by Hurlburt and the coffee machine by former Tory MLA Judy Streatch.

When Hurlburt resigned his seat on Feb. 9,  he released a statement as he left for a Florida vacation. 

"It is with deep regret and sorrow that I advise I am tendering my resignation as MLA for Yarmouth and as a member of the Progressive Conservative caucus effective Tuesday," he said in a statement.

Hurlburt repaid the money, after first defending the purchase of the generator.

Earlier this week, the Speaker's office released the full 2006 to 2009 spending list. It shows several MLAs bought multiple digital cameras, computers, and printers.

The biggest spender was former Tory MLA Len Goucher who spent more than $38,000 on office furniture and electronic technology.