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Wallins Audit exceeds $140,000 in Senate


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An independent audit of Senator Pamela Wallin's expenses has found ineligible claims amounting to as much as $140,000, and that the number of those claims is in the hundreds, CBC News had learned.

The 95-page report currently being viewed by a Senate sub-committee also reveals the Saskatchewan senator made attempts to change her expense paperwork after the fact.

Sources tell CBC News that the audit reveals the following:

  • The audit flags at least $120,000 in questionable claims, with another $20,000 to be decided by the Senate committee. Wallin has already voluntarily repaid $38,000.

  • Almost all of Wallin's problems revolve around travel expense claims, most notably dinners and other expenses in Toronto and Guelph, where she was chancellor of Guelph University and where she was doing university business rather than Senate business.

  • Wallin made or attempted to make retroactive redactions or changes to her expense report, raising possible accusations of a coverup.

  • Of Wallin's four former executive assistants, three have told Deloitte that they know of expenses that were altered by Wallin.

Members of the Senate's administrative committee are getting their first look at the long-awaited audit of one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's highest-profile appointments.

Wallin, a well-known former journalist and anchor who helped Harper fundraise and drum up voter support during the last election, is the latest senator who has been subjected to scrutiny by the independent auditing firm Deloitte in an expense scandal that has turned out to be the biggest crisis the Senate has faced in its nearly 150-year-old history.

Members of a smaller Senate subcommittee received the audit and a briefing on its findings Monday morning, and Wallin herself was scheduled to receive a copy of it as well.

The audit will be released to the full Senate committee of internal economy later in the day and auditors will be on hand to brief the senators on the committee.

The subcommittee will deliver a report on the audit on Tuesday and are expected to make their report public.

Much of its content has already been flagged by one of the auditors conducting the examination and by Wallin herself.

The focus of Wallin's audit will centre on her travel expenses, specifically flights she charged to the Senate. That's what she told host Peter Mansbridge of CBC-TV's The National in an exclusive interview that aired in June. Any issue over her expenses, she said, is about "flight costs. Flight costs. So, money is not in my pocket, the money is in the pocket of the airlines."

Wallin told Mansbridge that Senate paperwork is so onerous it's as if it were not "humanly possible to keep on top of. So I made mistakes."

mi-auditors-senate.jpgAuditors leave a meeting Monday morning after briefing members of the Senate subcommittee looking into Senator Pamela Wallin's expense claims. (Margo McDiarmid/CBC)

She said that as she re-examined her expenses paperwork with the help of her two Senate assistants, she realized some of her airline tickets charged to the Senate should have been paid for by what she called a "third party," which she said was "more like a board than an event."

Wallin sat on at least three boards for most of the time she's been in the Senate, including Porter Airlines and the investment firm Gluskin, Sheff. She's since resigned from those positions.

Wallin told Mansbridge she had voluntarily paid back $38,000 to the Senate, and admitted she might owe more.

Stopovers on the way to Saskatchewan

Wallin also told Mansbridge that the reason her travel claims to the place she calls her home — Saskatchewan — seem so low over a two-year period compared with the $300,000 claimed for other travel is that she often stops over in Toronto on her way back to her native province.

"If I have a day like a Friday where I can go to Halifax or Edmonton or Toronto and do a speech or do an event, I will do that on the way home. I am still going home. That doesn’t count as travel to my home. It counts as 'other.'”

Wallin said that flights to Saskatchewan from Ottawa are long and infrequent, and although an airline ticket might appear to be for an Ottawa-Toronto route, the final destination could be Saskatchewan.

Although Wallin owns a condo in Toronto, she said she spent 168 days at her home in Wadena, Sask.

Wallin, appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a Conservative senator now, sits as an Independent.

Wallin's audit was extended twice

Something about the pattern of Wallin's claims, however, must have been red-flagged by the Senate's administration. Deloitte has been asked twice by Senate staff to extend the audit period for Wallin's claims, which at first covered an 18-month period. The audit now begins when she was first appointed to the Senate at the start of 2009.

The Deloitte audit has been underway for over six months, and in June a Deloitte auditor appeared before a Senate committee to explain the delay.

hi-senate-expense-who-852-4col.jpg WHO'S WHOKey players in the Senate expense controversySenators under scrutiny for travel and housing claims

In a rare 15-minute period when the normally secretive committee of internal economy allowed the public to listen to testimony from one of two auditors working on Wallin's case, Gary Timms explained that the "lens" he was using was different from the one employed with three other senators.

In the cases of senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb, the Deloitte audits examined how much time the senators spent in homes they claimed were their primary residences as opposed to days spent in Ottawa.

In Wallin's case, Timms said, the focus is "more on the nature of the expenses and whether they were Senate business expenses." However, Timms confirmed the audit process is the same as the one employed in the other senators' audits.

In those cases, Deloitte tracked the daily whereabouts of Duffy, Harb and Brazeau using data gleaned from their Senate-issued credit cards and cellphones. Deloitte was able to prove that the senators spent little time in the places they declared were their primary residences.

A senator who lives at least 100 kilometres from the capital is allowed to charge the Senate for maintaining a secondary residence.

The same auditing process could have been deployed for Wallin, ascertaining how many days her flight stopovers on what she said were trips to Saskatchewan lasted, and how much time she spent in Toronto.

The RCMP are investigating Duffy, Harb and Brazeau and have filed court documents revealing the force suspects each senator of filing inappropriate expense claims contrary to the Criminal Code. No charges have been laid and none of the allegations have been proved in court. I think of this and then I remember Harper saying this gem not to long ago. “In terms of Sen. Wallin, I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper in House of Commons. Feb 13, 2013.

As well, Porter Airlines was also involved in the Senator Brazeau scandal as well as Peter Penasue's spending/travel issues. Curious isn't it

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Just beyond disgusting. Even worse is how she's now not even taking accountability for it, she's instead saying fine I will just pay it back. Try stealing money from work and just saying no it's ok, i'll pay it back. Explain that to the courts and see how far you get. Our politicians seem to no longer be afraid of the people. This is an issue

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