31 January 2008

AG considers Sept '07 report to cover improper retention or misappropriation of public money or other similar action

In his annual report for 2007, Auditor General John Noseworthy includes his massive September 2007 Report on a Review of Constituency Allowance Claims from 1989-90 through to 2005-06 as a report under section 15 of the Auditor General Act.

As the AG cites, section 15 provides:

Where during the course of an audit, the auditor general becomes aware of an improper retention or misappropriation of public money or another activity that may constitute an offence under the Criminal Code or another Act, the auditor general shall immediately report the improper retention or misappropriation of public money or other activity to the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

Under the AG Act, the auditor general is required to provide the report to the minister of finance.

Under a similar provision in the new Green bill on House accountability and integrity - in force in September 2007 - Noseworthy was required to advise six offices of the report, including the Speaker, the Attorney General, the Premier and the Minister of Finance.

The Auditor General has refused all public comment on the September report, citing the provisions of the Green bill. Under section 45, the Auditor General is prohibited from confirming or denying the existence of such a report on a member or other official of the legislature except to include a reference in his next annual report.

Bond Papers contacted the House of Assembly earlier in January asking if the Auditor General had filed any section 15 reports in addition to those related to certain companies, three former members of the legislature and five individuals currently facing criminal charges. The official response was to decline comment on the question. The report does include information on the former members of the legislature, but nothing that had not been included in previous reports since the focus of the report was broader in scope and purpose.

There is no constraint in the Green bill on the six offices receiving a section 15/section 45 report similar to the restriction on the Auditor General.

Under the order in council authorizing the September 2007 report, the Auditor General was detailed to conducted annual audits of the House of Assembly for the periods Fiscal Year 1999 to Fiscal Year 2003 and to review constituency allowance spending from 1989 to 2004 to determine if overspending occurred beyond approved amounts. neither of the two reports cited by the Auditor General as resulting from that order in council appears to meet either term of the order.