Vancouver businessman Rick Peterson, who is seeking the leadership of the B.C. Conservative Party, has called for the creation of an independent roving forensic auditor who would randomly select targets and look for potential misuse of taxpayer funds. Mr. Peterson says the auditor would be elected during provincial votes and would be at arm’s length from government. The auditor would lead an “audit SWAT team” to defend the public purse. “It would serve as a warning that there’s a big stick out there.”
Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, says MLAs would think twice about their spending if they had to post every receipt for an expense online. Receipt posting would give watchdogs and the media an opportunity to vet all spending, Mr. Bateman said. “It would be a constant reminder that all this stuff is going to be out there for everyone to see. Don’t spend anything you don’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper.”
MLAs should be compelled to write reports on all conferences they attend that would be easily accessible through freedom-of-information requests so the public could tell that the MLAs were diligent in extracting something from such events, says Dermod Travis, executive director of IntegrityBC, a non-profit think tank on political reform. “Politicians who attend these conferences and may think they don’t have to do anything may think twice about whether or not they want to go,” Mr. Travis said. “That would be a way that people could tell in the future if it is good value to attend these conferences.”
There are already comprehensive guidelines for government travel, covering such issues as the use of air miles gathered in trips, who signs off on trips and rules on using charter aircraft. But political scientist Hamish Telford says it may be time to recommit to the rules and tighten them up in a high-profile way that would make the effort visible to taxpayers. “There are guidelines that exist, but clearly the guidelines allow for too much individual discretion that can be interpreted too widely,” says Prof. Telford of the University of the Fraser Valley.
- IAN BAILEY
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