MONTREAL - Chuck Guite, the federal bureaucrat who headed the scandal-plagued sponsorship program in the 1990s, is getting parole.

Guite's conditional release was authorized on Dec. 23, National Parole Board spokeswoman Arti Jolly said Friday.

The Stetson-wearing Guite, who defended himself during his trial, will have served about one-sixth of his 42-month prison term when he is released in February.

"Whenever there's no violent element to the crime, (offenders) are eligible to have accelerated review and have a potential release date considerably earlier," Jolly said.

Guite is eligible for day parole on Feb. 15 and full parole on Sept. 16, Correctional Service Canada spokesman Jeff Campbell said Friday.

He said Guite would likely reside in a halfway house while on day parole and will be free to return to his own residence once he's fully paroled.

"It's part of a graduated step towards that reintegration process in the community," Campbell said.

"But even when somebody's on (full) parole there's requirements to report to their parole officer and abide by whatever conditions that may apply."

Guite will complete his sentence on Jan. 16, 2012, Campbell said.

Guite, who left the federal government in 1999, was in charge of the federal sponsorship program where friends of the federal Liberals were paid for little or no work.

A jury convicted him in 2006 on all five charges he faced in connection with allegations he defrauded the federal government of about $2 million.

The National Parole Board said Guite will be required to follow rules "over and above the normal parole conditions."

Upon his conditional release, the former civil servant will be asked to provide a monthly financial account of his revenues and expenses to a parole officer, Jolly said.

The Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the conviction and the 42-month prison term last July.

The court ruled the evidence against Guite was so overwhelming there was no reasonable chance of a different verdict being handed down in his case.

Guite was hoping the court would bring his jail term in line with the sentences given to two other major players in the scandal, advertising executives Jean Brault and Paul Coffin, who were given sentences of 30 months and 18 months respectively.

But the three appeals court justices pointed out that Brault pleaded guilty, while Guite didn't even bother testifying at his own trial.

The court also cited Guite's misuse of public funds as an aggravating factor in his fraud conviction.

The sponsorship program was supposed to promote national unity in the wake of the narrow victory by federalists in the 1995 Quebec referendum.