Mike Duffy's expenses: 'The matter is closed,' senior senators say
P.E.I. senator's expense case won't be referred to the auditor general, senators on powerful committee say
Senator Mike Duffy won't have his expenses referred to the auditor general for review, according to two senior members of the powerful Senate administrative committee.
Duffy was cleared of all criminal wrongdoing associated with his living and travel expenses and service contracts last week.
"The mandate given to the [Office of the Auditor General] by the Senate has concluded. The OAG audit did not include senators who were the subject of the RCMP investigations," senators Leo Housakos and Jane Cordy — chair and vice chair of the Senate's internal economy committee — said in a statement.
"However, Senator Duffy et al. were audited by [outside auditor] Deloitte and were dealt with accordingly, including reimbursement of funds and suspension," the short statement concluded.
Reached later for clarification, a spokesman for the committee told CBC News: "As far as the Senate internal economy committee is concerned, the matter is closed."
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It is not known whether the other 13 senators who sit on the committee feel the same way. But, a vote is not on the agenda when the committee resumes sitting next week.
Duffy, along with senators Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau and retired senator Mac Harb, were exempted from the AG's audit because the RCMP was investigating their cases for potential criminal wrongdoing. Brazeau and Harb have since been charged, while the RCMP's report on Wallin has been completed and is believed to be with the Crown's office.
The auditor general's office issued its own statement Thursday affirming that its audit is complete, and Duffy was not on their list.
"We will not be undertaking any further audit work for the same period, unless specifically requested by the Senate," a spokesperson said.
Duffy famously repaid his living expenses with the help of former prime minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Nigel Wright, who cut a cheque for $90,000.
But other expenses, including some $50,000 in travel expenses and $60,000 in service contracts routed through Duffy's friend Gerry Donohue, which were examined as part of his criminal trial, were not initially identified as problematic by Senate administration. The Senate could still push Duffy to repay those expenses if they are found to be inappropriate.
The P.E.I. senator could also face an investigation by the Senate ethics officer, Lyse Ricard, although her office said Thursday that it was too soon after the court's decision to comment.
Most senators to avoid criminal charges
Former Conservative government leader in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton, introduced a motion in the chamber to call in the AG to review the expenses of all senators in the wake of public backlash over Duffy's alleged misspending.
Her motion was controversial within the Senate itself as her fellow senators have long seen themselves as masters of their own house.
"I made the decision that I wanted to do this and then I had to sell it to a bunch of people," LeBreton said in an interview with CBC News. "I felt that the public would not tolerate yet another committee of parliament looking into things within parliament, I knew it had to be somebody from the outside." The motion ultimately passed.
The Senate's committee on internal economy, budgets and administration — the body that essentially governs the upper chamber and approves budgets — then met with Michael Ferguson to set the parameters for the audit, limiting the review to expenses from the period of April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2013.
His report, tabled in June of last year, found roughly $1 million in "questionable" or inadmissible expenses on the part of 30 senators.
His office referred 9 of those cases to the RCMP for review, although the Mounties ended up examining all 30 for potential criminality. CBC News reported last month that 24 of those senators have been cleared, and will not face charges.
That amount was subsequently revised, considerably, after retired Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie reexamined some of the AG's findings as part of a binding arbitration process.
All sitting senators have since repaid inadmissible expenses, but some $528,000 is still outstanding from retired senators. The Senate initiated legal action to collect those funds last Friday.
Duffy can take his seat in the Red Chamber as early as next Tuesday, when senators return from a week-long break week. He is now free to hire staff, and will have access to the research budget provided to all members of the upper chamber.
There has been some activity at Duffy's Centre Block office since all his criminal charges were dismissed. House of Commons IT staff were seen moving technical equipment out of the office on Tuesday.