04 December 2006

Latest AG report on Tuesday

Provincial auditor general John "Baubles" Noseworthy will release his latest report on spending in the House of Assembly on Tuesday at 10:00 AM local time.

True to form for Noseworthy, it is unclear from the news release whether Noseworthy will release both portions of his report or just one.

In July Noseworthy was tasked by cabinet with conducting comprehensive audits of the House of Assembly accounts for the period from Fiscal Year 1999 to Fiscal Year 2003.

To be clear, Noseworthy previously confused the dates when conducting his reviews and releasing his information. This should mean that this portion of Noseworthy's report would cover from 01 April 1999 to 31 March 2004.

Part of that period was already covered by previous reports. While it was not previously described this way by government or House of Assembly officials, Noseworthy was given revised terms of reference to offset a procedural problem with his earlier audits.

The second part of his mandate was to review any excess expenditure of constituency allowances by members of the House of Assembly beyond what was approved by the House Internal Economy Commission. This portion of the review would cover the period from 01 April 1989 to the present.

Noseworthy's release describes his report on Tuesday as being about "excess constituency allowance claims by Members of the House of Assembly."

Taken at face value, this would mean he would be releasing the larger and more complex review dating back almost 18 years and involved over 100 current and former members of the legislature. This may turn out to be the easiest to complete, though, since Noseworthy was only tasked with reviewing one of several allowances available to members of the legislature.

Furthermore, he was only tasked with identifying overspending that had not been approved by the IEC. Operating like treasury board or an executive committee, IEC has the authority to approve expenditures beyond budgeted amounts based on agreed-upon criteria. Overspending could occur, but if approved by IEC it would be beyond Noseworthy's mandate to discuss it. Former finance minister Paul Dicks made this point.

Considerable confusion in Noseworthy's earlier reports suggested that the Auditor General and his auditors did not understand the House expenditures. Constituency allowances, as defined by the 1989 Morgan Commission report was one of several district-related allowances available to members of the legislature to cover costs of serving as a full-time elected representative.

In his earlier reports, Noseworthy routinely lumped constituency allowances with travel and other allowances. This occurred despite Noseworthy's including the Morgan Commission report's definition of constituency allowances in each of his reports. See, for example, the report on New Democrat legislator Randy Collins. There were also discrepancies among the reports on all four current and former legislators.

The gold standard of professional public auditing remains the Auditor General of Canada. Her most recent report included allegations against a senior public servant. The allegations were back by both meticulous research and meticulous reporting of the research. Take a look at the report at the AG website, and then compare it to whatever her local counterpart releases on Tuesday.