12 July 2006

Everything old is new again

According to a great story in today's Telegram, veteran political scribe Rob Antle reports that the House of Assembly has put in place what are described as new rules governing the accounting and administration of expense claims by members of the provincial legislature.

Don't bother checking thetelegram.com; the "news story" in the online edition is a puff piece about the SmartCar.

Go figure.


The new rules are simple: every claim must have receipts and any questions are to be directed to the chief financial officer.

They replace the old rules in which all expense claims had to be supported by receipts and questions were directed to the chief financial officer.

This is no joke.

The new rules are exactly the same as the old rules.

And it took a memorandum from no less than three people and a meeting of political staff in the House of Assembly to ensure everyone understood the new rules...

which were, of course, exactly the same as the old rules.

The only actual change is that from July 10 2006 onward, the entire claim must go to the Comptroller General before a cheque will be cut. This is a step forward, but evidently a determined program could frustrate the Comptroller General's last line of checks in the system.

Heck, even in the system that used to exist, the Comptroller General apparently never noticed that $1.0 million in cheques were cut to four individuals beyond the publicly available limits set by the Internal Economy Commission.

That said, this Telegram story demonstrates that when the province's finance minister, the Speaker and the Auditor General assured everyone in the province that changes already made in 2004 would prevent financial problems, these three august individuals were not telling factual and accurate information.


If changes had been made in April 2004, the House of Assembly would not need to introduce changes in mid-July in the wake of a spending scandal.

One of the things that hasn't changed is the ability of members of the House to make donations of any kind and amount they deem fit out of money allocated for the operation of constituency offices and for discharging their duties as parliamentarians.

Apparently, there is also no requirement that the claims for donations or any other spending will be made available to the public as occurs in the provincial government through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

In other words, the system remains as fundamentally unaccountable and opaque to the voting public as it has ever been.

Change evidently means more of the same.