Liberals call for G8 'value for money' audit

The auditor general didn't examine whether the $50 million spent in Muskoka delivered value for money. Now the Liberals want a second audit.
Money from a $50-million G8 legacy fund was used for a number of projects in former industry minister Tony Clement's Muskoka riding. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A request for a second audit of the G8 legacy fund has been requested by Liberal MP John McCallum in a letter to the auditor general.

On June 9, interim auditor general John Wiersema released an audit from his office that questioned the lack of paperwork and supporting documentation to explain why $50 million allocated by Parliament to a border infrastructure fund was used instead for the government's G8 legacy fund.

The legacy fund was spent on 32 projects in then-industry minister Tony Clement's riding. No bureaucrats were involved in the decision making for those projects. Rather, the auditor general's audit found that the two ministers involved, Clement and then-infrastructure minister John Baird, made decisions on their own and without any paper trail.

The auditor general's audit explicitly avoided the question of "value for money," or whether the projects constituted not just legal or permissible, but effective government spending.

Now McCallum wants the auditor general to have a second look at the G8 legacy fund projects to evaluate whether they achieved any objectives related to the border infrastructure fund, or the G8 summit held in Muskoka in June 2010.

"A value for money audit would provide Canadians with an accurate picture of how each of the 32 far-flung  projects, such as the gazebo in Sundridge, Ont., and the washrooms in Baysville, Ont., achieved the intended purpose of supporting the G8 summit which was held at a summit site which in some cases was up to 100 kilometres away," McCallum's letter says.

In the letter, he goes on to cite the stated criteria for the border infrastructure fund and notes that the 32 projects appear to have "little, if anything" to do with those objectives and criteria.

"A value for money audit by your office is the only way for Parliamentarians to know for sure if the millions of dollars they authorized for the Border Infrastructure Fund provided good value for money to taxpayers," McCallum's letter concludes.

RCMP hasn't interviewed Clement

On Tuesday, the RCMP confirmed that the force is considering whether to formally investigate allegations about the misappropriation of G8 legacy funds. Former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings wrote to the director of public prosecutions in April, during the last federal election campaign, requesting a police investigation.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Tony Clement, who is now treasury board president, said that the RCMP hasn't contacted him. He dismissed as speculative a question about whether he would co-operate with a potential investigation, but acknowledged that the RCMP was obliged to followup after receiving the complaint from Jennings.

On Tuesday in the House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called NDP questions about the G8 legacy fund a "public relations stunt."

On Wednesday, Clement accused the Liberals of being "complicit in the PR stunt."

In question period, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae called the G8 spending the "Muskoka slush fund" and asked the prime minister to explain the lack of documentation around the projects. Rae added that in the private sector an official who made these kind of decisions would be fired, not promoted as Clement is perceived to have been in the May cabinet shuffle.

"Notwithstanding some of the process problems, this money was spent on 32 public infrastructure projects, all promoted by local municipalities," Harper responded. "All the money's accounted for and those projects will serve those communities well into the future."

NDP critic Charlie Angus also continued his ongoing and colourful attack on Clement, continuing to urge him to "come clean" despite the fact that Baird continues to answer most of the questions in the House of Commons about the G8 legacy fund.

"He sits there day after day hiding under his desk like 'Mini-Me,'" Angus charged, pointing across the aisle at Clement. "That is insulting to the people of Canada."

Baird criticized Angus for not following NDP Leader Jack Layton's call for more civil behaviour in the House of Commons.