Former top auditor said Senate residency rules lacked clarity, documents show
OTTAWA - CTV News has obtained documents that reveal what the Senate's former top auditor wrote about residency rules in a secret report.
The audit was overseen by Jill Anne Joseph about three years ago, and asked each senator where they lived and if they could provide proof of their claim.
Senators are supposed to have a "primary" residence in the province they represent. If that primary residence is more than 100 kilometres from the Senate, they are given financial assistance for accommodation closer to Parliament Hill.
The audit has not been made public, with the Senate claiming parliamentary privilege.
But documents show that in a 2013 RCMP interview about the report, Joseph gave her conclusions on Senate housing rules. She said "there was a lack of clear criteria surrounding residency."
She also found that "guidelines or criteria for how (primary residence) is to be met, that was not very clear. That was not well understood."
Joseph told the RCMP that, because the criteria were lacking, Senate administrators didn't require Senators to prove where they said they lived, or how much time they actually spend there.
"If there had been clear provisions in the policy that you have to live there 50 per cent of the time, or you have to do this or that, they would have requested it," she said.
"To my mind primary residence was still a bit of a nebulous thing."
Duffy's defence lawyer Donald Bayne has been doggedly arguing for the last five weeks that the residency rules lacked clarity. Bayne wants the audit shown in court as part of its defence.
It's believed the secret audit also shows Mike Duffy wasn't the only senator who made controversial housing claims.
Joseph's still-confidential report ultimately led to the Senate changing the rule in 2013, requiring Senators to show their driver's licence, health card, and income tax file to prove their province of primary residence. The new rule was brought in after the period covered by Duffy's charges.
That change, Joseph said, demonstrated the old principal residence criteria were deficient.
"Three indicators have to be provided now when they submit their declarations of residency. That was proof that there wasn't enough surrounding that, 'cause they're now requiring more information than they used to," she bluntly told the RCMP.
Gary O'Brien, the former Senate clerk in charge of day-to-day operations, said in a separate interview with the RCMP that Joseph's audit "was controversial," but he supported the process and its conclusions.
"I felt they were helping us do a road map to get out of this problem," he said, referring to rules surrounding Senators' housing expenses claims.
O'Brien said the internal audit report was always meant to be confidential.
"Jill Anne's Internal Audit Report has never, has never seen the light of day, it has never been publicly released," O'Brien said. "That was never the intention of the (Senate) administration to make it public."
Senate lawyers are prepared to fight in court to keep the audit under wraps, claiming that the Upper Chamber's internal affairs are privileged and can't be admitted as evidence.
A date will be set on Friday for both sides to argue if Joseph's report should be allowed in the Duffy trial, and made public.
"We don't believe it's privileged," Bayne told CTV News.
Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, most of them relating to his living and travel expenses. He owns property in his native province of Prince Edward Island, but also owns a home in Ottawa where he lived for years.
With a report by CTV’s Katie Simpson and files from Philip Ling