The Senate committee examining Pamela Wallin’s travel expenses has asked independent auditors to widen the scope of their review to include another year’s worth of the Saskatchewan senator’s expense claims.
Ms. Wallin is under scrutiny for travel bills that were well above the average claimed by her fellow senators over the past several years. She is one of four members at the centre of a growing controversy over expense claims that is fueling calls for reform in the Red Chamber and recently prompted the Prime Minister’s top aide to resign.
Ms. Wallin’s audit was initially limited to a recent 18-month period. But an update on the audit process provided to members of the Senate’s internal economy committee last month raised enough flags that auditors they were asked to add another year to their review, a source familiar with the process said.
Ms. Wallin has charged about $375,600 in travel expenses between September, 2010, and the end of February, 2013. Her expenses initially raised concerns, in part, because only a fraction of the total bills were listed as “regular travel,” the Senate’s term for trips between a senator’s primary residence and the National Capital Region.
Most of Ms. Wallin’s recorded travel is listed as “other.” The former broadcaster said earlier this year that many of her flights to her home province of Saskatchewan are not direct, and are therefore listed as “other travel” on her expense forms. But questions have been raised about whether some of the trips include travel that is unrelated to Ms. Wallin’s Senate duties and therefore should not have been claimed.
Ms. Wallin has already repaid some of the money she claimed since becoming a senator in early 2009, including about $25,000 that was repaid immediately before her audit began, according to sources familiar with the expense review. She resigned from the Conservative caucus last week but continues to sit as an independent senator.
Separate audits of Senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb were tabled in the Senate earlier this month along with a series of reports. The internal economy committee ordered Mr. Harb and Mr. Brazeau to repay tens of thousands of dollars in housing expense claims and said it would keep the money Mr. Duffy had repaid.
But the audit process was called into question after it was revealed that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, gave Mr. Duffy more than $90,000 to cover the money he repaid. Mr. Wright resigned from his position last Sunday.
Ms. Wallin’s audit is still ongoing and is more complex because it involves a detailed review of all travel-related expenses she claimed.