Wallin calls audit process 'fundamentally flawed and unfair'
Published Monday, August 12, 2013 6:25AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 12, 2013 9:45PM EDT
Sen. Pamela Wallin calls an audit into her expenses a “fundamentally flawed and unfair process,” but says she will repay all travel expenses a Senate committee deems inappropriate.
Wallin addressed reporters briefly in Ottawa Monday evening, hours after an external audit into approximately $321,000 in travel and housing expenses was handed over by auditing firm Deloitte to a Senate subcommittee. The audit covered expenses Wallin has claimed since Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed her to the upper chamber in January 2009.
CTV News reported earlier Monday that the audit showed Wallin claimed between $121,000 and $142,000 in improper expenses, and found that she had claimed travel expenses related to private business matters, personal matters and partisan fundraising activities.
Wallin told reporters in Ottawa that when she was first appointed to the Senate, she was determined to be “an activist Senator,” and was committed to making public appearances to “advance causes that are important to Canadians.”
“I saw it as my duty to accept whenever I was able to do so,” Wallin said, reading from a prepared statement. “Travel to these public speeches and appearances was and is, in my continuing view, a legitimate Senate expense.”
Wallin accused auditors of applying Senate expense rules brought in in 2012 to expenses that were filed and approved before that time. She also accused the auditors of using an “arbitrary and undefined sense of what constitutes Senate business.”
“It is my view that this report is the result of a fundamentally flawed and unfair process,” Wallin said. She did not take questions from reporters.
Wallin acknowledged that she had made some mistakes when filing expenses, and has already repaid those funds.
Wallin has already voluntarily repaid $38,000 in ineligible expense claims, and sources have told CTV News that the former journalist paid back about $25,000 before the audit even began.
The 95-page audit was first turned over to a senate sub-committee, and was tabled at the Senate’s internal economy committee Monday evening.
The committee meeting lasted well into the evening Monday, after which committee chair Sen. Gerald Comeau, told reporters he was “quite impressed by the report.”
“After having read the Deloitte report, I’m quite satisfied with the very professional manner in which they approached the report, the way they wrote it and the facts expressed,” he said.
The results of the committee’s review of the document will be made public on Tuesday.
Wallin made her statement to the media spoke before going in to that meeting.
Sources have told CTV News the audit found that 73.2 per cent of Wallin’s travel expenses were “appropriate.” Another 22.7 per cent are subject to reimbursement, while 3.9 per cent remain undetermined.
“Let me state clearly, that I will pay back the full amount ordered by the committee, including interest, once that final figure is given to me, and I will do so out of my own resources,” Wallin said.
Wallin, who stepped down from the Conservative caucus in May and now sits as an Independent, said she “never intended to seek or sought reimbursement for travel expenses in any situation where I did not believe such a claim was proper.”
CTV News reported earlier Monday that hundreds of entries in Wallin’s Senate calendar were modified or deleted.
Deloitte analyzed the senator’s calendar entries in Outlook and, “in some cases, Deloitte is saying those calendars were modified, perhaps deleted,” reported CTV’s Omar Sachedina.
According to the documents, 34 calendar entries were identified in Wallin’s live 2013 calendar that referred to entries prior to Oct. 28, 2011 “where the subject line of the calendar entries (appointments, etc.) had been modified or changed from the entry that existed in the office calendars.”
As well, the audit reads, 391 entries that appeared in the 2011 and 2012 calendars did not appear in the 2013 calendar. “They found that most of the items that were deleted were in respect to calendar entries for Sen. Wallin’s activities on various boards of directors,” Sachedina reported.
During her statement, Wallin said that she was only asked to provide information relevant to the expenses being audited, and so she and her staff reformatted her calendar “without irrelevant or private or personal information included.” Wallin added that Deloitte had original copies of all of her calendars.
“At no time did I intend to mislead Deloitte in any way,” she said.
Sen. Marjory LeBreton, government house leader in the Senate, said in a statement before Wallin spoke that the government “expects that any inappropriate expenses will be repaid. Senator Wallin is no longer a member of the Caucus and must be held accountable for her actions.”
Earlier Monday, Comeau told reporters that he was expecting some of the information in the report.
Comeau wouldn’t say if he believed Wallin will have to repay more taxpayers’ money.
"We'll see where that leads," he said.
The audit into Wallin’s expenses comes three months after audits into the expense claims of three other senators were released.
When Deloitte turned over its audits into Sen. Mike Duffy, Sen. Mac Harb and Sen. Patrick Brazeau in May, Deloitte asked for additional time to probe Wallin’s expenses.
The ongoing spending scandal has heightened calls to reform or even abolish the Senate.
Earlier Monday, Comeau said the Senate will continue to undertake "spot audits" to ensure accountability.
"It's forewarning for all of us to make sure the books are in order, and we'll do spot audits on an on-going basis," he told CTV News Monday. "So we expect to be continuing this in the future."