KENORA – The fight over MP expenses appears to be winding down without any punches being thrown. Greg Rickford, Member of Parliament for Kenora, and other members of the Conservative Caucus agreed today to put forward a plan in response to the Auditor General’s request to examine House of Commons spending in more detail. Before divulging the specifics of the plan, they will take it to the Board of Internal Economy, and will share the plan with MPs of all parties.
Ever since the all-party Board of Internal Economy denied Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s request to examine more than $500 million in House of Commons spending, there has been much criticism and speculation in the media and the general public around MP spending and its transparency.
“There has been a great deal of misinformation around this issue. The new plan’s intention is to ensure even greater openness,” said Rickford. “I will support any measure to increase transparency. We certainly want to ensure that we address the concerns expressed by Canadians.”
“Strict procedures for paying and reimbursing MP expenses have been in place for years through the finance department, although this is mostly unknown to the public,” asserts Rickford. “This department scrutinizes and in essence ‘audits’ MP expenses on a continuous basis. Staff are subject to stringent guidelines for filing claims, and MP budgets are broken into compartments for items like staff salaries, travel budgets, and advertising. Members’ budgets are also independently audited by the firm KPMG”.
“We realize that only those working closely with MPs or on Parliament Hill are likely familiar with this process,” said Rickford. “Canadians would likely not know how these procedures work, and that they safeguard against potential abuse and waste. They should have every confidence, however, that I have adhered to all of these procedures and managed my finances responsibly.”
Sheila Fraser said that she was surprised by the backlash and “disturbed by all the misinformation”, since initially she only recommended a performance audit of the administration of the House in such areas as contracting, human resource management, management of information technology and security. “It was never suggested that it would be an audit of MPs or MPs’ expenses,” Fraser stated yesterday, “and certainly never, never an audit or any kind of assessment of MPs’ performance.” The Auditor General has been invited back to speak with the Board of Internal Economy about this matter.
Although Fraser’s recommendations were misinterpreted, the high level of attention this issue has attracted and the immediate public outcry for more transparent MP spending must be taken seriously. “I stand with my government and am prepared to engage with any process that improves and increases transparency”, confirms Rickford.