The Conservative Senate majority plans to send Mike Duffy’s expenses back for more study by a committee in light of allegations he may have billed the Senate while doing both personal and political work.
A spokesperson for Marjory LeBreton, the Conservative Government Leader in the Senate, confirmed the plan Friday, the day after Mr. Duffy announced that he would be stepping down from the Conservative caucus. Mr. Duffy said he would sit as an independent Senator because controversy over his expenses had become “a significant distraction.”
Audits of the expenses of Mr. Duffy and Senators Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb – all now sitting as independents – were overseen by the Senate committee on Internal Economy.
Last week the committee released three audit reports, as well as reports with committee commentary on the expenses.
The audit related to Mr. Duffy indicated that after he had paid back $90,172.24 in expenses he stopped co-operating with auditors, declining requests for meetings and refusing to provide requested documents.
Among the documents requested, but not obtained, by Deloitte auditors were bank records.
Andrew MacDougall, the director of communications for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, spoke with reporters Friday morning about Mr. Harper’s travel plans, but also commented on Mr. Duffy’s resignation.
“I don’t have anything to add to what the Senator put out last night. Obviously from the government’s perspective, the importance is on any improperly claimed expenses being returned to the taxpayer. Senator Duffy has returned money to the taxpayer. There’s two Senators, Brazeau and Harb, who have not, who are in fact fighting to keep their expenses that were found to be improperly claimed,” he said.
Mr. MacDougall was asked how the Prime Minister could not know that his chief of staff, Nigel Wright, had covered Mr. Duffy’s expenses with a $90,000 cheque.
“The government was firm in its desire to see those expenses repaid to the taxpayers of Canada. Obviously we’re now engaged with the office of the ethics commissioner on this matter, so I’m not going to add any more comment to that, but from our perspective, the money had to be returned, and had to be returned right away,” he said.
The audit of Mr. Duffy’s expenses attempted to provide a detailed timeline of where Mr. Duffy was each day over a two-year period and whether he was doing Senate work. This week various media outlets – including the Canadian Press, the CBC and The Globe and Mail – have cross-referenced those dates with news stories and other public information. As a result, it appears there are days where Mr. Duffy claimed per diems for working on Senate business while campaigning for the Conservative Party or other performing personal work such as public speaking for a fee.
It is possible that Mr. Duffy performed Senate work on those days and also did extra activities. It is likely that he will be asked for an explanation as part of the further review of his expenses.