Pamela Wallin audit details set for public release
Auditors found senator's ineligible claims totalled as much as $140,000, sources say
Details of the audit on Senator Pamela Wallin's Senate expenses will be made public today along with a Senate committee's report that will outline what to do with the findings.
Members of the Senate's internal economy committee are meeting on Parliament Hill Tuesday morning to receive a subcommittee's report on the audit.
Wallin pledged Monday to repay every dollar she is asked to by the Senate, with interest, but she described the audit process as "fundamentally flawed and unfair."
Wallin also defended herself against media reports that she had altered her electronic calendar retroactively during the audit process.
"I was advised part way through the process that I should only include information relevant to the actual expenses being claimed. So we formatted our calendar accordingly," she said in statement she read to reporters, adding that she knew Deloitte auditors had a copy of her full agenda.
"Let me be clear: at no time did I attempt to mislead Deloitte in any way," she said.
A Postmedia story citing the audit report said it was Senator David Tkachuck, then the chair of the internal economy committee, who advised Wallin to make the changes. But on the way into the committee meeting Tuesday, Tkachuck denied giving her that advice.
"It makes no sense whatsoever. I didn’t ask her to change her calendar, all I did was I said, 'When you submit your calendar,' I said, 'make sure you put in relevant material and not irrelevant material'," Tkachuck told reporters.
"I never told her to do anything like that, all I told her was to make sure her calendar was clean. The audit was taking a long time, I wanted to move it ahead…it was a passing comment in an hour-long conversation where I said, 'make sure you submit what you have to submit and leave all the irrelevant material off your calendar.'"
Wallin was not in attendance at Tuesday's meeting.
Senators to debate report
The internal economy committee will try to reach a consensus on what recommendations to put in the report, and senators may also propose motions with suggested actions, such as referring the audit findings to the RCMP or recalling the entire Senate.
"All options are on the table at this point," Senator Gerard Comeau, chair of the committee, said on Monday. "The RCMP can see the report, it will be public, and the RCMP if it wishes to ... can look at it and make a determination themselves."
Wallin was given a copy of the audit on Monday and attended the briefing session with her lawyers. She read a statement to reporters on Parliament Hill beforehand and said she had "serious concerns" about how the auditors did their work.
Wallin said the auditors are retroactively applying Senate travel rules that were changed in 2012, and that expenses that were approved by the Senate from 2009 to 2011 are now being disallowed.
"The basis for this latter decision is apparently some arbitrary and undefined sense of what constitutes 'Senate business' or 'common Senate practice' and — by their own admission — no inquiries were made of other senators as to their definition or views on the subject," the Saskatchewan senator said in the brief statement.
Wallin said the Deloitte auditors identified a number of claims that are "subject to interpretation" and that it will be up to the Senate committee to decide whether she should pay that money back.
"I want to be absolutely clear. I never intended to seek, nor sought reimbursement for travel expenses in any situation where I did not believe such a claim was proper. Where I made mistakes, I have already paid money back," Wallin said.
'Serious concerns about fairness'
Wallin has already voluntarily paid back the Senate $38,000, and sources have told CBC News that the audit found ineligible claims amounting to as much as $140,000.
Wallin said she has "serious concerns about the fairness" of the audit process, but that she doesn't want to burden the Canadian public or her Senate colleagues with the matter and she wants to focus on causes that are close to her heart.
She said she will pay back whatever amount she is ordered to by the Senate, with interest, and "will do so from my own resources."
An order to repay money could be contained in the report that a subcommittee of the internal economy committee wrote on Monday. That report will be presented to the full committee on Tuesday and will be made public along with details of the audit.
The senators in charge of writing the report said Monday they were "digesting" a lot of information after receiving an "interesting" briefing from Deloitte, one of them said.
Senator Gerald Comeau, chair of the subcommittee, told reporters that he wasn’t surprised by much of what the Deloitte audit found.
"It's interesting … some of it we were expecting," he said. He and the other two senators on the subcommittee wouldn't comment on what the audit revealed about Wallin's Senate expense claims and if she will be ordered to pay more money back.
Comeau, Carolyn Stewart Olsen and George Furey spent the afternoon working on the report.
"If you're asking if I'm happy with the discussions that I'm having today with my two colleagues, yes I am," said Furey, the Liberal senator on the subcommittee.
"Absolutely not," he added when asked if the Prime Minister's Office would influence the writing of the report.
The subcommittee faced accusations of whitewashing the report on Senator Mike Duffy's expenses in May to go easy on him compared to the reports on Senator Patrick Brazeau and Senator Mac Harb.
"There is no going soft on anyone," Stewart Olsen said Monday.
Sources told CBC News that the 95-page audit reveals the following:
- The audit flags at least $120,000 in questionable claims, with another $20,000 to be decided by the Senate committee.
- Almost all of Wallin's problems revolve around travel expense claims, most notably dinners and other expenses in Toronto and Guelph, Ont., where she was chancellor of Guelph University and where she was doing university business rather than Senate business.
- Wallin made or attempted to make retroactive redactions or changes to her expense report, raising possible accusations of a coverup.
- Of Wallin's four former executive assistants, three have told Deloitte that they know of calendar entries that were altered by Wallin.
In an exclusive interview with Peter Mansbridge on CBC TV's The National in June, Wallin said expense claim paperwork is onerous and hard to keep on top of and she made "mistakes."
She said some airline tickets charged to the Senate, for example, should have been paid for by a "third party." The former journalist sat on several boards and was also chancellor at the University of Guelph until 2011.
Government wants inappropriate expenses repaid
Wallin's flights between Ottawa and Saskatchewan — the province she was appointed to represent by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009 — were the subject of scrutiny because of stopovers in Toronto. She charged more than $300,000 in travel expenses since the fall of 2010.
Wallin said that flights to Saskatchewan from Ottawa are long and infrequent, and although an airline ticket might appear to be for an Ottawa-Toronto route, the final destination could be Saskatchewan. Wallin owns a condo in Toronto.
- Senator Wallin's questionable expenses total $140K, audit reveals
- Readers call for Wallin's resignation, further audits
The Deloitte audit on Wallin's expenses began more than six months ago. It originally was covering an 18-month period but then was extended to examine her claims from the time she was appointed in 2009.
Audits on senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Mac Harb were completed in May. Those audits were more focused on their claims for primary and secondary residences and the housing allowances they collected.
Senator Marjory LeBreton, Conservative leader in the Senate, issued a statement Monday. "Our government will not tolerate the waste or abuse of the hard earned tax dollars of Canadians," it said. "We expect that any inappropriate expenses will be repaid. Senator Wallin is no longer a member of the caucus and must be held accountable for her actions."
Mobile users follow the live blog here.
- This article has been edited from a previous version that incorrectly reported the Deloitte audit into Senator Wallin's expenses said that Senator Wallin altered her expense claims. In fact, the audit found that Senator Wallin retroactively altered her calendar after the investigation into her expenses began.Aug 13, 2013 10:23 PM ET