APTN National News
OTTAWA — Three Aboriginal senators’ claims were included in a highly anticipated audit of Senate expenses released Tuesday by Auditor General Michael Ferguson.
Retired Senator Gerry St. Germain who represented British Columbia is one of four senators whose case could be forwarded to the RCMP for further investigation.
Germain’s expense claims equated to $55,588 in travel costs, according to the report. Spotty documentation has caused at least $12,000 to be ill-accounted for.
Each Senator named in the report was able to respond to the findings.
Germain stated in the report that he disagrees with the findings, saying that the “presentation and tone of your general observations insinuate that I misappropriated my office resources in a nefarious manner. I find these apparent accusations to be a defamatory affront to my personal integrity.”
Northwest Territories Senator Nick Sibbeston racked up $50,102, the bulk of which was used for travel, too, states the report. Nine instances of extended stopovers were recorded, along with frequent trips to western Canada and independent trips made by his spouse.
One night stopovers are considered to be a “reasonable practice,” says the report.
Sibbeston’s comments allude to the “casual” and sometimes “spontaneous” nature of business meetings in the territory and that northern travel is expensive at best. He goes on to state, “perhaps I could have been better at keeping records.”
New Brunswick Maliseet Senator Sandra Nicholas-Lovelace bill totaled $75,227, the majority of which was used for travel-related purposes incuding trips where she stayed in Fredericton for longer than one night.
“These extended stays, some as long as nine nights, is a matter of convenience for individuals travelling to Fredericton to meet with her,” Nicholas-Lovelace stated in the report.
Nicholas Lovelace has filed for arbitration.
The report recommends creating an oversight body that is independent from the senate, stating that it should have complete access and power to conduct internal or external audits. The inner-workings of this body should be open to the public, its findings published on its website.
Whether the Senate accepts the Auditor General’s recommendations is yet to be determined.
“Our intent is to render the Senate of Canada an accountable, responsive, transparent legislature,” said Senate Speaker Leo Housakos during a press conference after the report was released. “A body that our citizens of our great country will and can respect.”
30 sitting and former senators exercised expenditures Auditor General Michael Ferguson “determined were not in accordance with the applicable senate rules, policies, or guidelines,” states the report.
The Senate develops its own system of self-governance and determine what will be disclosed to the public.
“In our current audit,” the report states, “we found that in many cases, Senators did not maintain records to document the parliamentary business that they conducted while spending public funds.”
Senators must keep track of what they spend, “including hospitality events, attendees of those events a recipients of gifts with a value that exceeds $50,” according to the report.
Close to $1-million in public funds were used to accommodate the spending habits of the Senate.
Beginning on April 1, 2011 and ending March 31, 2013, the audit examined 116 current and former senators. There are 105 current Canadian senators.
Two other Aboriginal Senators, Lillian Dyck of Saskatchewan and Charlie Watt of Quebec are not named in the report.