6 surprising things in the Senate expense audits
Senators Duffy, Harb and Brazeau varied greatly in their co-operation with auditors
The audits conducted on the living and travel expenses claimed by three senators reveal some surprising information about how much they co-operated with the auditors, and what exactly they claimed.
A Senate sub-committee ordered senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau to repay tens of thousands of dollars after an independent auditor, Deloitte, examined their expenses and travel.
Duffy has already repaid $90,000, and Senator David Tkachuk, who heads the committee that produced the reports, said Thursday that Duffy's case is "closed."
After receiving the audits, the Senate committee found that the three senators' primary residences were in Ottawa, and not in the places outside the capital where they said they lived to be eligible to charge expenses for accommodation near Parliament Hill.
The Deloitte audits were made public Thursday. Here's some of what they revealed:
Co-operation with auditors
Conservative Senator Mike Duffy did not co-operate with Deloitte auditors. He did not provide any documentation. Deloitte had to piece together Duffy's whereabouts using records for his Senate-issued cellphone and Senate-issued American Express corporate credit card
Both Independent Senator Patrick Brazeau and Liberal Senator Mac Harb provided Deloitte with copies of their bank account statements, income tax returns and, in Harb's case, credit card statements. Brazeau does not have any personal credit cards.
Brazeau and Harb also provided either lease or mortgage documents about the homes they claimed were their primary residences.
Meeting with auditors
Both Brazeau and Harb, along with their lawyers, met with Deloitte.
Duffy declined invitations from Deloitte to meet and answer questions. However, Deloitte noted that in late April, when the audit was almost done, Duffy's lawyer sent an email that said Duffy had just offered to meet with the Senate or with Deloitte, presumably to explain his expenses.
But, Deloitte continued, "We understand that the Senate sub-committee notified Senator Duffy that it had agreed Senator Duffy's offer to meet with Deloitte would delay the process, and that the sub-committee agreed that there should be no further delays in the process."
Per diem claims
A senator is allowed to claim about $88 per day for meals and incidentals while on Senate business in Ottawa if their primary residence is 100 kilometres outside Ottawa. Deloitte chose an 18-month period between April 2011 and September 2012 for its examination.
Brazeau did not charge any per diem money during that time.
Harb charged $15,000. Deloitte identified eight claims by Harb where no official Senate business could be identified.
Duffy charged $18,000 in per diems but Deloitte noted, "It is not clear from the claims where Senator Duffy was located on days he claimed per diem," because the auditors had no access to his personal records. From cellphone records, Deloitte did identify 12 days Duffy was in Florida when he claimed per diems. However, Duffy repaid that money before the audit was done, saying a temporary staffer in his office had made an error in filling out forms.
The Senate allows 55 cents per kilometre for road trips.
Harb charged $11,000 for trips between Ottawa and a home in Westmeath, 145 kilometres from Ottawa.
Brazeau charged $2,800 for trips to and from Maniwaki, 135 kilometres from Ottawa, although Deloitte agrees there were 25 trips for which Brazeau did not claim expenses.
Duffy's trips to P.E.I were by plane and Deloitte does not provide details. Deloitte does note that in the summer Duffy drove to P.E.I. and back and charged driving expenses. The amount isn't specified, but a round trip between P.E.I. and Ottawa is more than 3,000 kilometres.
The Senate pays about $30 per day for senators to stay in secondary residences they might own in Ottawa, if their primary residence is somewhere else.
Duffy charged $15,000 for the suburban Ottawa home he purchased before he was appointed a senator.
Harb charged $15,000 because of the house in Westmeath, Ont., that he bought in 2010. He’s been a senator since 2003, and lived in Ottawa before he moved to Westmeath, just outside Pembroke, Ont.
Brazeau charged $31,000 for leasing a house in Gatineau, Que. Senators can choose to rent, or stay in a hotel, but unlike hotel bills, both rental and private home costs can be charged every day of the year because the accommodation must be available for the senator to use at any time.
Time spent in primary residence
Duffy spent 30 per cent of his time his P.E.I. cottage. However, much of that time is accounted for by a two-month block in July and August.
Harb spent 21 per cent of his time at his Westmeath home, while Brazeau spent only 10 per cent of his time in Maniwaki.