Senators Pamela Wallin and Mac Harb could be forced to repay thousands more in improperly claimed expenses, according to sources familiar with the process.
Mr. Harb is being asked to return close to $200,000 in improper housing and travel expenses – significantly more than he was originally told – while Ms. Wallin could be asked to repay more than $20,000 in addition to the $38,000 she has already returned.
Both were among a group of four senators who had their expenses reviewed by an auditor after questions were raised about their claims. Last month, the Senate’s internal economy committee made three of the audits public and ordered Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mr. Harb to repay tens of thousands of dollars in improperly claimed living expenses.
All three senators had billed the Senate for the cost of maintaining a secondary residence in Ottawa, despite evidence from the auditors that they spent a majority of their time in the National Capital Region. Ms. Wallin’s audit is separate from the others: it focuses on her travel expenses and is still ongoing.
Mr. Harb was initially found to owe the Senate $51,482, based on a two-year period ending March 31, 2013. But the internal economy committee said at the time that it would request a review of Mr. Harb’s expenses dating back seven years – the length of time the Senate is required to maintain records.
The review found that Mr. Harb would owe close to $135,000 in improper housing claims and another $35,000 to $40,000 in mileage claims for trips between the National Capital Region and the Westmeath, Ont., home he claimed as his primary residence, according to a source familiar with the review of his claims. Once interest is added to the claims, which cover eight years, the total is close to $200,000, the source said.
David Tkachuk, the Conservative senator who heads the Senate’s internal economy committee, confirmed on Friday that he had written a five-page letter to Mr. Harb this week that included a number that was greater than the initial $51,482. He declined to say exactly how much Mr. Harb is being asked to pay.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Harb said the senator had only received one letter from the Senate and that it mentioned the initial sum of about $51,000. “He’s still consulting with his legal team on that matter,” Alison Deakin said.
Mr. Harb, Mr. Duffy and Ms. Wallin attended the Senate’s Question Period throughout the past week, watching as their colleagues debated measures to improve accountability and transparency in the Red Chamber. All three now sit as independents.
Ms. Wallin’s audit is not expected to be complete until the middle of the summer. But a source familiar with the review of her claims said she is likely to owe at least another $20,000 in expenses, in addition to the money she has repaid so far. Sources said she is co-operating with the auditors.
Senate expense reports show that Ms. Wallin spent more than $375,000 between September, 2010, and February, 2013, with only a small portion of the expenses listed for travel between Ottawa and her residence in Saskatchewan, the province she represents.
She has said in the past that she often stops in Toronto when she is en route to Saskatchewan, and that some of the travel is therefore listed as “other.”
But auditors looking at her expenses raised questions about some of Ms. Wallin’s claims for trips between Toronto and Ottawa, including some that appeared to have no connecting trip to Saskatchewan, the source said.
Auditors gave the Senate committee handling Ms. Wallin’s expense claims an oral update on the matter in mid-April. Concerned by what they had heard, the committee instructed the auditors to add at least one more year to their analysis, which had initially covered an 18-month period.
Ms. Wallin left the board of Gluskin Sheff and Associates, a wealth management company based in Toronto, the company’s CEO confirmed on Friday. She has been a director on the board for Porter Airlines since 2008, but a spokesman for the privately held company, contacted on Friday, declined to say whether Ms. Wallin was still a member of the board.
Ms. Wallin has repeatedly declined to speak about the audit or respond to reports that she has repaid money to the Senate.
“As Senator Wallin has said before, she is awaiting the reports of Deloitte and the Internal Economy Committee before she comments. At that time she’d be happy to answer questions,” Mark Fisher, a spokesman from her office, wrote in an e-mail.
Senators voted last week to ask the Auditor-General to conduct a comprehensive audit of senators’ expenses.