A Senate committee has settled on Pamela Wallin’s final tab, saying the independent senator must repay a total of $138,969 in travel costs.
The definition, however, of what counts as legitimate Senate business remains murky, as the committee has not publicly identified which of Ms. Wallin’s questionable expenses were deemed to have been appropriate.
A Deloitte audit released last week had identified $121,348 in claims for repayment, but asked the Senate to give an “interpretation” on another $20,978 in expenses. In a statement Wednesday, a Senate sub-committee said $17,621 of that figure must be paid back.
It’s unclear what the remaining $3,357 included. A Senate spokesperson said she did not have a breakdown of what expenses were approved and what expenses now need to be repaid.
The events subject to interpretation were largely “networking events” taken on by Ms. Wallin, who argued it was her goal to be visible in the community and serve as an “activist and effective Senator.”
Ms. Wallin has already repaid the Senate $38,369 in travel claims, but has criticized the audit process as “fundamentally flawed and unfair.” She continues to serve as a senator, but is sitting as an independent.
The committee made the decision without speaking to Ms. Wallin, her representatives say.
The Senate subcommittee that agreed upon the final figure is made up of Gerald Comeau, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen and George Furey – two Conservatives and one Liberal. Ms. Stewart-Olsen and Mr. Comeau said they weren’t able to provide details Wednesday, Ms. Wallin hasn’t made a public statement since the day before the audit’s release.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had defended Ms. Wallin’s travel claims. He said this week that the audit “obviously has uncovered some significant problems” and distanced himself from Ms. Wallin, whom he appointed to the Red Chamber.
“I would expect that action will be taken to ensure full accountability for any breaking of rules,” Mr. Harper said this week.
Ms. Wallin’s audit came after similar audits into the expenses of senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Mac Harb. In all four cases, the Senate asked for certain expenses to be repaid, though Mr. Harb plans on taking his case to court. All four cases have also been referred to the RCMP.
Canada’s Auditor-General is now beginning an audit of the expenses of all 100 senators, a process that is expected to take 18 months.