Sen. Wallin repaid some expenses before audit
Published Monday, February 25, 2013 10:07PM EST
Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin paid back a “substantial” amount of money she claimed in expenses before meeting with auditors to discuss her travel spending, CTV News has learned.
Expense records show the former broadcaster, who was appointed to the Senate in 2009, has claimed $321,037 in “other travel” expenses since September 2010.
She also spent $29,423 on flights from Ottawa to her home province of Saskatchewan.
A source said that about 70 per cent of Wallin’s flights were to Toronto, where she also owns a home.
CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported two weeks ago that the Senate brought in an independent auditor to look at Wallin’s travel spending. At that time, Wallin said that “no offer of repayment was made or asked for.”
But an insider told Fife that Wallin struck a deal to pay back some money in claimed expenses before auditors were called in.
Wallin did not respond to requests for an interview, but CTV News caught up with her in a Senate committee. She did not want to discuss the issue.
“I’m sure all of this will become abundantly clear but right now I’m doing my work as a senator,” she said.
Wallin has previously told CTV News that she met “willingly” with a representative from Deloitte accounting firm and answered all questions about her travel expenses.
Wallin claims her primary residence is in Saskatchewan, but she owns condos in Toronto and New York City and has an Ontario health card.
To get a health card in Ontario, an individual must primarily live in the province and “generally” be present there for at least 153 days in any 12-month period, according to the Ontario Ministry of Health’s website.
“I spent 168 days in Saskatchewan last year and most of my travel was to my home province,” Wallin wrote in an email to CTV News on Feb. 12.
The upper chamber has also recruited Deloitte to audit the housing expenses of Senators Mike Duffy, Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau after questions were raised about their claims.
An annual housing-and-meal allowance of up to $22,000 is offered to senators whose primary residence is more than 100 kilometres away from Ottawa.
Duffy, a Conservative senator who is also a former broadcaster, announced on Friday that he will repay the housing allowance he’s been collecting even though he doesn’t believe he owes the money.
The senator, who claimed that his primary residence is in Cavendish, P.E.I., even though he has lived in the Ottawa area for decades, has claimed $42,802 for living expenses since September 2010.
Duffy said the Senate’s housing expense forms were confusing and he “may have been mistaken” when he filled them out.
Critics, however, countered that those forms are not complicated.
“I never sign anything I don’t understand but I don’t find anything confusing about the form that is required to be signed,” Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan said.
Harb and Brazeau have denied any wrongdoing.
The Red Chamber is asking all senators to prove where they live by submitting copies of their driver’s licences, health cards and tax forms.
CTV News has learned that the Senate now wants to question two more members of the upper chamber about their expense claims.
The Opposition says any senator found to have filed false residency or expense claims should be charged with fraud.
“When you have someone like Pamela Wallin, who says one thing to the federal government with regards to her residency -- she says it’s in Saskatchewan -- she says quite another thing to the government of Ontario because she has an Ontario health card, then you obviously have a problem,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair told CTV’s Power Play Monday.
Mulcair also said it’s ironic that Duffy blamed confusing paperwork for collecting a housing allowance he shouldn’t have received.
“This is somebody who wants to be sitting there, in the Senate, deciding whether the laws duly enacted by the House of Commons should actually become law. I think that’s a bit of a joke.”
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife