27 July 2006

Will Noseworthy Dicks this up too?

As noted here recently, Auditor General John Noseworthy's review of constituency accounts in the House of Assembly dating back to 1989 may prove to be much ado about nothing that he can criticize.

That isn't to say there wasn't bags of inappropriate spending after 1996 when the Internal Economy Commission changed the rules governing spending of these accounts.

Rather, as former finance minister Paul Dicks noted in his recent news release, the spending was approved, receipted, within budget and in keeping with the guidelines.

The guidelines were - and are - set by the House of Assembly's Internal Economy Commission. That's the very group the cabinet appears to want to shield from scrutiny by avoiding a public inquiry into the whole financial mess.

John Noseworthy increasingly appears hell-bent on getting Paul Dicks as pay-back for having the AG's office shut out of the legislature back in 1999/2000.

Why hell bent? Well, despite the admission of two current and one former cabinet minister and the Speaker of the legislature that all have engaged in appropriate spending of their accounts over a considerable period of time, Noseworthy singles out Dicks alleged purchases of wine and artwork as what he wants to uncover.

Here's the condundrum though:

If Noseworthy tries to nail Dicks, then he has to nail every other single example of inappropriate spending.

Otherwise, he'll be tagged as being on a vendetta, not an audit.

If he spreads out to cover inappropriate spending generally, then he'll be exceeding the brief handed to him by the cabinet - at least if we are to accept the version of the brief given by Speaker Harvey Hodder and the abysmal news release he issued last week.

That brief was limited to a hunt for over-spending, pure and simple and it certainly didn't even hint at the power to criticize the Internal Economy Commission. After all, the IEC is technically Noseworthy's employer and he'd be in a spot of bother were he to take them on.

Remember, if he tackles the IEC, the Noseworthy will be criticizing none other than the current Minister of Finance. Loyola Sullivan has been on the IEC through most of the period under detailed review and he is the guy Noseworthy has been reporting to on all the problems he has found to date.

For all his protests about impartiality and being unmoved by outside influences, we'd all be rightfully suspicious that AG Noseworthy won't come within a seven column pad of even hinting at that Sullivan even sat in the legislature during the period under review.

Basically, AG Noseworthy is screwed no matter what he does.

If anyone was genuinely interested in getting to the bottom of the entire scandal and avoiding the constraints and conflicts the AG is obviously operating under, then government would have long ago appointed a public inquiry into the whole mess and called in outside auditors to do the grunt work.

One wonders whose interest is served by the unproductive grunting of Noseworthy and others instead?

It certainly isn't the taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador.