15 September 2007

The little things

In reading the Auditor General's latest report on inappropriate spending by members of the provincial legislature, there are some little things that pop up at you:

1. The $1,000 then-finance minister Loyola Sullivan paid to Mile One Stadium in 2005. What was that for?

2. The partisan expenditures. Since these things are obviously verboten - no ethical relative defense applies to that one, there Premier - how come the Auditor General didn't expose every single instance of this corrupt practice? It doesn't matter that the amount was only around $11,000.

That might just be the bit that was so obvious the auditors - who buggered up sections of other reports on the legislature - couldn't miss it. Perhaps there is more of the misdirected funding buried in some of the other accounts.

Partisan expenditures relate to supporting a Member's political party and would be considered an inappropriate constituency allowance expenditure. I note that the Green Commission Report indicated that expenses related to politically partisan activities should not be a reimbursable constituency allowance expense.

During the review, we identified only $11,093 during the period 1989-90 through to 2005-06 in claims that could be considered partisan in nature. However, there was no Member who had significant claims relating to partisan expenditures. Some of the items we did identify as partisan included:

  • advertisement to thank voters;
  • refreshments and facility rental for party meeting;
  • flowers to other Member for election congratulations;
  • dinner tickets for various party associations;
  • expense claim to attend party convention;
  • players fees for political golf tournament (this same fee was denied on another Member's claim form); and
  • Federal party fundraising events.

3. The AG's sudden lip-lock. For a man who was prepared to male wild accusations before without a shred of credible evidence to present, John Noseworthy's silence on Friday was interesting. Chief Justice Green didn't suggest the AG couldn't say anything at all, he just strongly hinted that an auditor might want to refrain from making accusing of criminality without having the knowledge or ability to make such a claim.

Then again, if I had to explain why only two people were named in the double-billing scandal but the problem was more widespread, I might be barring the doors and windows too.

4. The $2800 bucks. The current repayment issue for that money is listed in the Auditor General's report as if it was more than just a policy some members adopted. Did the Auditor General include the $2800 on the account as an overpayment made to members before he discovered in the course of another audit that the payments had actually be authorised?

Inquiring minds might want to stick a microphone down the newly dug rabbit hole the AG lives in and see if he actually made at least one inappropriate accusation against a member who received the money, legitimately, since it was approved by the legislature's management committee. Let's not even think about whether it was the right thing for the committee to approve the money in secret. Heck, even the Premier and Beth Marshall weren't prepared to try and stop the hand-out. Let's just see if Noseworthy actually made the accusation before he knew the facts.

5. How can the Auditor General tell us that Kathy Goudie received money for expenses after she resigned when she resigned well after the period covered by this audit?

6. If he can tell us that, why didn't he tell us about the $5,000 of public money Tom Rideout "gifted" in 2007 back-dated to 2006? Not only would that amount change Rideout's "gifting" total, it would also likely attract Noseworthy's attention for the backdating.

7. And while we are looking at "gifting" why did the AG bury the bit on inadequate documentation of "gifts" in the back? (Figure 35, page 64)

Turns out that of the $1.5 million or thereabouts in "gifts", 21% had inadequate documentation. The peak periods?

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005

$36,875 $50,253 $87,966 $23,991 $41,276

And was there any pattern to the inadequate documentation and who was submitting it? pattern that is beyond the fact that while the total "gifts" went up after the 2003 election, the instances of poor documentation went down.

It's the little things that sometimes really do catch your eye.