The Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) said the Auditor General’s report into the administration of the House of Commons and the Senate failed to give Canadian taxpayers the information they’ve been demanding about the spending habits of Canada’s MP’s and Senators.
The CTF also called on MPs and Senators to take the next step in fiscal transparency and release all of their expense receipts to the taxpayers who pay the bill.
The Auditor General didn’t audit Members of Parliament or the work performed by Members’ employees or consultants in their Ottawa or constituency audits, nor did he audit professional services contracts awarded by individual MPs.
“Parliament gave the Auditor General a set of handcuffs and a blindfold and told him to do an audit,” said Gregory Thomas, CTF Federal Director.
“Canadians don’t get to look at receipts, they don’t get to see what MPs are spending in their constituency offices and they don’t get to see to whom MPs are awarding contracts,” said Thomas. “It’s a very superficial report in many ways.”
The audit showed missing documentation for more than 5 per cent of expenditures — meaning politicians got money back for expenses for which they didn’t provide a proper receipts.
“A 95 per cent documentation compliance rate isn’t enough — every claim should have proper paperwork,” said Thomas. “Taxpayers spend $36 million a year on office expenses for MPs, so even if only five per cent are faulty, as this audit shows, that’s $1.8 million worth of questionable purchases. Further, the audit doesn’t comment on the value of what was purchased, merely if the documentation is available.”
Thomas noted the small sample size for the House of Commons audit, which only looked at 264 financial management transactions — less than one per each of Canada’s 308 MPs. The audit noted that 85,000 financial transactions were processed by the House of Commons and its administration in the past fiscal year.
“Taxpayers should be able to examine every scrap of paper associated with spending our money,” said Thomas. “The House of Commons and Senate should be subject to Access to Information (ATI) laws, like almost every other government agency.”
“Why can citizens file an ATI request and get a copy of a lunch receipt for a Department of Fisheries and Oceans bureaucrat, but not an MP’s?” questioned Thomas. “Why can you go online and look through a Toronto city councillor’s expense reports, but not your Member of Parliament?”
“We will not rest until federal lawmakers embrace the modern age of political transparency and post their receipts for taxpayers to see,” said Thomas. “Disclosure should not be optional, nor should it be shielded by anonymity. Let’s see our leaders’ bills and decide for ourselves if they are spending our tax dollars wisely and not just rely on audits that happen once every 20 years.”
The CTF and Canadians were appalled when legislators originally blocked Auditor General Sheila Fraser’s May 2010 request to open their books. The CTF launched a petition, e-mail and Facebook campaign and thousands of Canadians signed on, finally forcing politicians to allow Fraser to investigate. The Auditor General’s office even thanked the CTF for our organization’s support, noting they had received so many emails from our supporters they couldn’t respond to all of them individually.
“Our supporters are incredibly proud of the CTF’s work and Sheila Fraser’s principled stand for transparency,” said Thomas. “MPs and Senators are more aware than ever that taxpayers are watching how they spend our money. We’re not going to stop here.”