Senate Says No to Ernst & Young’s Call for Second-level Approval of Expense Report
CANADA – Senate’s internal economy and budget committee chairman David Tkachuk rejected Ernst & Young’s recommendation to subject the senators’ expense report to a second-level of sign-off after auditors found “a lack of clear guidance and criteria clarifying what activities constitute a parliamentary function.”
In 2009, senators have been using their offices’ budget for their travel spree with family around the world, most of which were improperly documented, according to an audit prepared by the Senate. Ernst & Young said the senators’ misconduct has shown inadequacy in how they interpret which activity makes for an official business worthy to be funded using the taxpayers’ money.
The Senate investigation showed that a total of $19.5 million, or 24 percent of the operating budget allocated to the Senate, was spent in just one year covering 2008 to 2009, which included travel expenses, lodging expenses while in Ottawa, office and research budgets, and hospitality expenses amounting to $5,000.
The misspending covered only 24 percent of the entire audit findings by Ernst & Young revealing that the senators misused their AMEX credit cards for unofficial and undocumented transactions, which the auditors said could spark public doubt over the senators’ conduct.
Ernst & Young tried to address the lack of transparency in the senate by proposing a second-level sign-off of the senators’ expense report, arguing that it was insufficient that only they alone could approve their own justification of expenses.
Tkachuk said there was no need for a second-level approval from a finance department of the expense report, which will be published online in January 2011, since the responsibility is attributable only to the senators themselves. He argued that there was no sign the senators misspent the taxpayers’ money because it was just “casual,” adding that the senators might just have missed some receipts to justify their expense report.
He said it was important for senators to spend for their travel since they were always out of the town almost every time, adding that it could help strengthen family ties.
Instead of the second-level expense report sign-off, according to him, the senate has adopted various changes in its policies.