MP expenses and annual audits

Dear Friends,

Many people have asked about the process for auditing and reporting expenses for Members of Parliament. MPs’ expenditures are disclosed publicly each year and posted on-line.

In addition, there are independent, external audits done on House of Commons expenditures, including MPs’ expenses.

Unfortunately, some of the media reports on this have been inaccurate as to what actually does take place on MP expenses. The House of Commons has very strict rules for MP expenses including what is permissible or not.

Sincerely,

Libby Davies, MP
Vancouver East

This Update from Libby was posted on May 15, 2010

20 Comments

Yes, MP expenses may have

Yes, MP expenses may have strict rules, but does everyone follow them? I want to see more details.. not just a summary.

i.e. office lease of $40k for one MP, or other expenses $9.8K,.. and MP's in comparable ridings are 25% of these expenses!

The disclosed expenditures indicate nothing about where, why, or how effective these expenditures were.

The assurances don't assure the AG or the public.

Right. If the current process is so ethical & free of abuse as Ms. Davies claims, what's wrong with allowing the AG to confirm this? Now that the public
is becoming livid over this issue, ONLY an AG audit can allay suspicions of expenses abuse by MPs. It's not that the public "misunderstands", it's that the public knows something stinks when the AG is obstructed in her job to double check gov't financial doings she feels need to be further assessed.

Ms. Fraser's a knowledgable professional re. gov't finances and she apparently thinks the current system Davies defends needs to be further scrutinized. The angry public is simply agreeing with Ms. Fraser, and is skeptical of the MP's position.
Or does the AG "misunderstand" too?
The public trusts the AG's judgment that more scrutiny's needed to ascertain if taxpayers are being well served by the current expenses system. The public does not trust assurances and explanations from MPs that sound too much akin to the Tories' dubious excuses for one year of secrecy & intransigence in opening up Afghan detainees files.

Just because a large accounting firm (is it KPMG?) does some kind of audit and issues generalized, opaque results, is not reassuring. Big accounting firms act to please their clients(think Enron, etc.), not the public. They have reason to turn blind eyes to questionable numbers. They certainly aren't going to act as watchdogs on clients. That's Ms. Fraser's job. Let her do it!

MP's expenses

Dear Ms. Davies,

At the risk of sounding trite, MPs are public employees who are paid by the taxpayers.

With public confidence in politicians at an all time low, allowing the Auditor General (as opposed to a tabloid news stand rag) to review expenses would go a long way in helping public confidence towards politicians. All you are doing by vociferously opposing the proposed audit is to make people think that you have something to hide, and to confirm the publics' mistrust of politicians is well placed.

Yours truly,

Craig McHaffie
Victoria, BC

Expenses

Libby

I am a life-long NDP supporter in your Vancouver Kingsway constituency and I am mad as H*ll that you seem to be blocking Sheila Fraser from conducting a full audit that is reportable to the public.

My husband is a recipient of a Disability check and has to be open and forthright about all his income-it his responsibility. Why are you any different?

MP Expenses

"I think it's really important that the public understand that we have very strict rules and procedures in place,"

That's great to hear. But like ANY organization there are checks and balances. My expeses for examples are check out, always. Since I have kept everything on the up and up, I always get paid no dramas. The same applies to everyone equally.
Being a NDP party member surely you would agree no one is created more equal including MP's?
If you have legitimate expense, what is the issue?
If someone has cooked the books and has something to hide, I can see the issue.
The more the MP's and Senators dig their heels, the more curious the public becomes. I would hazard a guess that this becomes a election issue.

MP's expenses

Hi Libby,
Re MP expenses: the coverage in the newspapers said that you were opposed to the public looking at MP's expenses. So your article above is informative.

Can you provide information that directs us to look at these expenses? If not, I will search it out.
Thanks.

MP's Expenses

Well, regardless of who might look at the accounts of the MPs, I see none of this as suggesting that the accounts ought not to be audited by the Auditor General.

It really does beg the question: "What have they got to hide?"

And, frankly, I was particularly disappointed that the NDP MPs seem to mostly close ranks with the other MPs.

A sad state of affairs

I am very disappointed by

I am very disappointed by your stand on this position. You are public servants and the audits of your expenses should be made available for the scrutiny of the public. I expect more from the NDP on this subject.

MP expenses and annual audits

Libby Davies, I have long thought of you as a person of true integrity and you were just about the last person I would expect to oppose Auditor General Sheila Fraser's request to examine MPs' expenses.

The online posting of parliamentary expenses to which you point is only a broad summary and the public has no visibility whatever into how it was audited. The real devil is in the details. Further, this expense summary includes only a little more than $100 million of expenses, not the $533 million of parliamentary (including Senate) expenses Ms Fraser wishes to examine.

C'mon Ms Davies, stand up for transparency and meaningful accountability. Support Sheila Fraser's request.

Thomas Mulligan
Associate Professor, Professional Ethics,
Brock University

open the books

As a taxpayer in a province that has had the thieves in the provincial legislature rob hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars it sickens me to see all parties support banning the auditor general from doing her job. They say they are already audited. Yes, but the auditor general will audit to see if we get value for the money spent. What are they afraid of? The current audit is not public. It is shameful. It disgusts me to no end. Perceived theft of the public purse is what one can only assume from members who want to hide their expenses from the people’s auditor. Shame on all of you, and especially shame on the members of the opposition. You are no better then the thieves that are in power. Prove me wrong. Open the books.

Obstructing the Auditor general?

As a resident of the Mt. Pleasant area of Vancouver, I was unpleasantly surprised to read that my beloved MP, who normally looks after interests & rights of the "little guy & gal", says she rejects an Auditor General's audit of MP expenses. This sounds like obstruction of the AG, preventing her doing her valuable job of auditing government expenses.

Worse, I learned Libby Davies even sits on the committee that made the ill-considered decision to in effect tell Ms. Fraser to "go fly a kite, you're not looking at OUR books. Hey we're MPs, far above the AG & above being accountable to the rabble! We'll charge expenses how we please! It may be taxpayer's money, but it's none of taxpayer's business whether their money is being spent wisely & honestly or not!"

It occurs to me Libby might not personally be as intransigent as she appears on this issue, but may feel obliged to sound that way and toe a NDP party or committee line, rather than be a voice of dissent.

I hope Ms. Davies might reconsider or even try working behind scenes to change minds.
The optics on this decision are terrible. Surely any ugly optics from opening MP books to the light of day can't be worse than the optics we have now of seeming cover up, leaving a suspicion greedy MPs are hiding financial wrongdoing.

I see Ignatieff is softening his stance & is today suggesting the AG & Ms. Davie's committee should meet & try to work out a compromise. I hope the NDP might rethink its position too.
-R. Beatty

MP Expenses

Come on Libby - you wouldn’t accept a statement like yours if the government claimed that they were following strict rules laid down by the Commons – (e.g. the sponsorship scandal or the Afghan detainee inquiry). You’d demand the proof and let the Opposition and the people decide. It’s called accountability, Libby! I also read the on-line report of MP expenses and it’s a typical boiler plate report typically issued by accounting firms – not the performance audit that would tell us and you whether we’re getting value for the $500 million spent. If you’re so certain that what happened in Nova Scotia and the UK couldn’t happen here, surely, opening the books to the people that put you in your seat would back that statement up. You can’t demand accountability from the government but then deny the same to the voters when it comes to your own nest. Do the right thing and restore my trust in the NDP.
John Pavey
Toronto, Ontario

What a Disapointment Libby!

As long time supporter of the NDP party, (Which is now in question) I can't understand why you would be opposed to Sheila Fraser request for an audit of MP's expenses. Does the NDP not stand for accountability and transparency? (Only when it suits you and your own agenda) What do you have to hide? Shame on you Libby Davis and the NDP Party!

NDP mistake

Libby,

When the audit does take place, and it will; I truly hope you have nothing to hide. Your actions speak otherwise. If it comes out that you have been using public funds improperly, it will be a sad day for the NDP.

I hate to say that your vocal support of denying the auditor general has will only serve to weaken support for the NDP. Your party has made a real mistake.

lost respect

Libby,
Of all the parties I thought the NDP would stand up and push for the books be opened. Sadly I now see you are no different to a Lib or PC's.
I recently moved to the UK and got to see daily what a expense audit can turned up, it opened a lot of eyes to the 'theft' that was going on. The best control is having open books, as it forces you to justify your spending. Can you justify your spending? Your current actions say no....

Accountability is a Four Letter Word?

Dear Ms. Davies,

In light of your decision to back your party’s ludicrous position to bar Ms. Sheila Fraser from examining civil servants’ accounts, I believe your true motives, apart from those publicly stated, are nothing more than a case of taking too much for granted. Your obvious disregard for transparency and accountability is rooted in your offensive assumptions about the people who make up your constituency.

1. You assume your incumbency in office will continue no matter what repugnant party position you support. You believe your comfortable majority in the previous election will hold in subsequent elections.

2. You represent a predominantly poor riding where constituents are not likely or able to donate to your campaign, so they don’t matter. Because your party represents the “poor”, the “poor” people of Vancouver East will have no other choice but to re-elect you.

3. As Vancouver East is a working poor riding, the assumption is that the people are not educated enough to see through your limp arguments about the constitutionality of an all-Parliament audit or that an audit that merely examines if numbers balance out is enough. What Canadians want is a complete accounting of where their dollars are going.

4. You ignore the fact that given the global debt crises all around us, the need for rooting out waste and reckless spending in the public finances is more
important than ever. Your position is based on size. Big waste of public money is not acceptable, but a smaller waste of public funds is.

5. You assume that your political class is above the law. Ordinary citizens must drop everything they are doing and comply when asked to open up their finances for examination. However, for public servants, you toss out incomprehensible explanations that you pray will get you off the hook.

Your assumptions about this riding may not be articulated, but your actions do speak loudly to your constituents.

Auditor General Review an Opportunity

I'm not primarily focused on finding an MP who has intentionally misrepresented expenses for personal gain (if any), that will come out in the process of an audit. But an Auditor General's review has the benefit of identifying programs and processes that are, or are not going so well. This provides an opportunity for adjustments in MP expenses or office operations so that government business continues to become efficient. A review need not be done every year, but it has been sometime since an audit was done by an Auditor General and it would reflect very favorably the Board of Internal Economy to rethink their position and view this as a collective opportunity.

Auditor General Review an Opportunity

You just don't seem to get it. This is an audit that provides clarity. I like the comments above. My PC MP has been spending 100000 on sending his family back and forth. Thats not right. You take this job knowing the requirements. DUH

Disappointed

I have always supported Libby Davies and all the great work she has done.
This doesn't diminish her past efforts at representing us, however, I am utterly shocked and outraged at her refusal to submit to the audit.

I know there is a danger that the media and the public could focus too much on minor expense embarrassments, but that is no reason to refuse a serious and detailed audit all together. If there are actual serious misuses of funds (and based on the reactions of the parties, this could easily be the case), they need to be uncovered.
I think it utterly shameful that the NDP has refused. However, I am even more shocked that Libby Davies whom I support as an individual not as a representative of her party, could also toe this line.

Very disappointed

East Vancouver resident (age 23)