Last Sunday I wrote about the shameful decision made by the House of Commons’ Board of Internal Economy committee to deny Auditor General Sheila Fraser permission to do a value-for-money audit on MP expenses. After some consideration, I believe I should have been kinder in my criticism
Liberal MP Paul Szabo, apparently, has a valid reason to keep his expenses secret and away from the prying eyes of taxpayers: to stop Canadians from learning how many parliamentarians are being sued by former staff.
According to Szabo:
- MPs are concerned about a “number of lawsuits,” including sexual harassment and wrongful dismissals brought against MPs each year and paid for by taxpayers.
- “If they were opened to the auditor general and open to the public, all of a sudden people would jump to conclusions without having all the facts.”
- “If you identify the member, or the law firm or all this other stuff, all of a sudden people could say ... what’s wrong with this member, this member is getting sued all the time.”
- Szabo said a large chunk of the board’s budget is used to pay for legal costs because MPs are “very susceptible” to lawsuits and “our reputations can be ruined if it would ever get out.”
Szabo might have a point, eh? After all, don’t all MPs have a special right to be in Ottawa? And should voters be fully informed about their activities and behaviour there, might voters not vote again for certain MPs, thereby denying them their rights? The poor fellow is on the horns of a dilemma.
But then, I’m one of those schnooks who vote regularly and pay my taxes on time. I’ve even been known to do volunteer work for political parties—how dumb is that? What right do I have to know which MPs are battling sexual harassment or wrongful dismissal suits, and doing so on the taxpayer dime?
Apparently, some MPs post details of their expenses on the Internet. Better than nothing, I suppose, but hardly a satisfactory substitute for an audit by the Auditor General, which analyzes the expenses and the systems and practices by which they are accounted for and controlled. Such an audit will also help taxpayers to understand whether our money is spent appropriately.
Here’s what I e-mailed to my Conservative MP for Burlington, Mike Wallace:
I would like to register my concern/disgust over the decision of the Board of Internal Economy to deny Auditor General Sheila Fraser permission to do a value-for-money audit on MP expenses.
I know that a financial audit is done of the financial statements of the House of Commons by KPMG, but this is quite different from the sort of audit proposed by Ms. Fraser. As she says:
“… a performance audit, like the audits we’re tabling today, is very different from a financial audit. And we’ll go in and look at the systems and practices much more than a financial audit would.”
And, I'd like to add that recent audits in other jurisdictions in Canada and the U.K. have not been encouraging.
My family and I look for leadership from you on this important issue.
I’m not sure where Mike stands on this issue, but if he doesn’t speak out soon about the absurd decision of the Board of Internal Economy, he can kiss my support goodbye at his next nomination meeting, not to mention next general election.