June 09, 2015

Senate audit a bigger waste than the Senate

Brian LilleyArchive

Reading the report into the Senate released Tuesday by Auditor General Michael Ferguson can be infuriating.

Senators expensing golf with their buddies, questionable travel, getting taxpayers to pay for two homes when they really only use one. None of these are things the average Canadian could do and keep their job, but the senators in question will keep their jobs and their pensions.

Did I mention that these are also the people that sat in judgment of Mike Duffy?

While the ol’ Duff is on trial and facing a possible stint in jail, the 30 senators flagged for improper expenses, including nine referred to the RCMP, will have a chance to go to arbitration if they disagree with the Auditor General and plenty of them do.

I don’t blame them. This is a guy that needs an audit of his auditing process.

Ferguson found roughly $1 million in questionable expenses. The cost to us for this audit? A staggering $23.5 million. It had previously been reported that Ferguson’s audit cost taxpayers $21 million but on Tuesday he admitted that no, it is actually $23.5 million.

So the overage on what his audit cost is 2.5 times higher than the amount of misspending he found. Great!

Only in a government town would that make sense.

Look, I’m not justifying former Senator David Oliver dinging us for golf with his buddies in Montreal or former Senator Marie Charette-Poulin expensing trips more likely related to the law firm she worked for than the Senate.

But the golf fees for Oliver and $31,000 in corporate travel of Charette-Poulin don’t amount to much compared to the $23.5 million racked up by Ferguson and his office to audit just two years worth of expenses.

I’ve been told that if Ferguson and his team were able to go back further that they would uncover much more misspending. Most likely they would, but at what cost?

The audit just released covered from April 1, 2011 to March 31, 2013. Would going back another two years cost us another $23.5 million?

Quite frankly we can’t afford that.

It is also more than a bit odd to see Ferguson get so nit picky as to explain to senators how they can save $30,000 on Christmas card mail outs when his audit costs so much.

It was also amusing to find out that Ferguson’s office has their own YouTube Channel and that they produce videos for him that pretty much nobody watches.

Talk about value for money.

I wouldn’t be so nit picky myself normally, I see enough waste in this town in one day to make the average Canadian’s head spin. Eventually you either get used to it or sick of hearing yourself complain.

But as Ferguson is using his $23.5 million audit to lecture senators over Christmas card choices he is using office time and resources to post vanity videos to YouTube. Haven’t we heard complaints about cabinet minister’s doing that recently?

Most of his YouTube videos have less than 100 views. Is that good value for money?

Over Twitter, Ferguson (or his office) told me that the total cost over the last three years has been $7,800 to produce the videos.

Given that he has English and French versions, transcriptions of both and closed captioning, I’m going to doubt that figure.

And I’ll move on because Ferguson’s videos are small potatoes compared to the huge amount he just wasted tracking down Senate waste. Surely they could have found a more affordable way to complete this task.

In the private sector no company would pay $23.5 million to ferret out $1 million in waste, it just doesn’t make sense and if someone did do that while claiming value for money, they would lose their job.

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commented 2015-09-08 21:44:41 -0400
“no point in prosecuting any theft crimes under $5000 … just tell them not to do it again.
I thought that’s what the courts do most of the time anyway: if the perp seems remotely remorseful its usually a tap on the fingers for the crime if that, then a kiss on the forehead and told behave by the liberal judges.
commented 2015-09-08 13:06:54 -0400
You’re totally right. We should just let politicans (and I assume all civil servants) charge whatever they want to save money.
Also, no point in prosecuting any theft crimes under $5000. Too expensive. Instead, next time someone gets caught shoplifting, just tell them not to do it again.
commented 2015-06-13 09:27:29 -0400
Drip Drip Drip, so who fixes this? Next step? Soup and cream court ? Total system failure with a reset on Canadian values and morals or continue on path to 3rd world conditions. Clean up your local town councils which will start the process of getting back to a accountable civil society. Speak out !!! Loudly.
commented 2015-06-11 11:06:16 -0400
Talk about entitlement culture. Today’s youth come by it honestly.
commented 2015-06-10 22:48:00 -0400
commented 2015-06-10 20:12:56 -0400
Great article. It’s all flim-flam, isn’t it? The only winners are the bureaucrats and those who need a political football to kick. I say we throw the main breaker in the Parliament buildings and leave the power off until, say, next February. Turn it back on for a month to deal with emergencies and cut their power again. If they want to continue to fuss and posture, do it in the dark. Eventually, we can get a handle on our bloated bureaucracy, but only if we cut off their supply of useless legislation and regulation from politicians. I believe we can all get by just fine without constant government direction. The peace and quiet for a while would be great, wouldn’t it?

During the periodic black-outs, they can all go back to their real jobs and earn a living like the rest of us.
commented 2015-06-10 17:08:14 -0400
The Senate just demonstrated, at least the CPC Senators, that they are bought and paid for by the PMO by voting along party lines to push through C-51. Not a principled representative in the lot of them.
commented 2015-06-10 14:56:57 -0400
the auditor general…isnt that already a paid government position….why the extra $23 million? really where did this money go..?
commented 2015-06-10 13:29:28 -0400
Yes, how DOES an audit become so expensive? Is it possibly because anything to do with government spending is not held accountable?
My CGA charges $200/hr,and has all the qualifications needed to conduct an audit, so how many hours were spent on this? Even if the auditors were charged out a $1000/hour,I can’t see how we got to a total of 23.5 million taxpayer’s bucks.

Could it have taken 23,500 hours to audit 30 Senators? The auditors must be the slowest accountants on the planet.

We taxpayers are too accepting of these ridiculous costs,to US! Let’s see an accounting of the A-G’s expenses.
commented 2015-06-10 11:50:51 -0400
I’d check your figures. He found $1 million in questionable spending. It cost us $23.5 million for the audit. That means it cost us 23.5 times as much as the questionable spending he found. Not 2.5 times as much. This is utterly rediculous. There is no way in hell that should have cost so much! They had to have been using gold paper to overbill that much. I’d suggest another entity audits the audit process and we’ll see exactly where the money went. This time we limit the expenses before hand. Let’s see if Mr. Ferguson and his cronies have been padding the expenses or not.
commented 2015-06-10 09:32:44 -0400
At the time of the Duffy/Wallin/Brazeau kerfuffle in the media, the Telegraph-Journal published the expenses of all the senators from New Brunswick, and the expenses of the three were not much different from the other senators’ expenses. The cost to the taxpayers: nil.
commented 2015-06-10 09:13:37 -0400
“So the overage on what his audit cost is 2.5 times higher than the amount of misspending he found. Great!”

I think you missed a 2. It is 22.5 times higher.
commented 2015-06-10 04:09:15 -0400
This report discloses nothing new that hasn’t been going on from the very beginning, when there were no rules! Almost 200 years of boondoggles and wasteful, selfish spending. ( The same thing that goes on in every organization that gives someone an expense account.)
commented 2015-06-10 00:43:40 -0400
They should now audit the CBC.
any amount spent would be worth it.
commented 2015-06-09 22:18:04 -0400
As big a waste as the AG’s investigation seems to be, at least it provided the proof for what everyone strongly suspected – that the rules governing senators’ spending are loosey-goosey, interpreted exceedingly generously and rarely, if ever, seriously enforced. That a large number of entitled appointees in what is mainly an “honour” system are found to be using it to their advantage isn’t very surprising, but at least now we have some specifics. Mike Duffy is likely very thankful for the AG’s efforts.

And, now that so many of them have been embarrassed, maybe the Senators will seriously get down to the business of tightening up the rules.
commented 2015-06-09 21:28:45 -0400
Spend a dollar to save a nickle? How about using 3rd or 4th year accounting students for audit work? Pay them fairly and I would bet their enthusiasm would outweigh their inexperience in finding the BS.
commented 2015-06-09 21:16:36 -0400
I fail to see the jusification in spending 23.5 million to audit the Senate, perhaps they should also audit the Auditor General….
commented 2015-06-09 20:09:27 -0400
Spending millions to stop a small leak is a common thing – if the Senate would sue the military expense and allowances example they would see most of the leakage stop over night.

If it is good enough for our soldiers it is damn sure good enough for our politicians.
commented 2015-06-09 20:07:40 -0400
The Senate.

Seems to me that for the most part – and I know there are some good ones – there is a large number who are an entitled crowd with an entitled attitude.