The Senate spent $390,000 on an audit of Pamela Wallin’s expense claims, more than twice the amount the Saskatchewan senator was eventually ordered to repay.
Ms. Wallin is one of three former Conservatives facing possible suspension without pay from the Red Chamber over her expense claims. Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau also face censure.
In addition to Ms. Wallin’s audit, the Senate paid another $138,784 for audits of housing claims made by Mr. Duffy, Mr. Brazeau and former Liberal Mac Harb, who quit the Senate in August.
That puts the total cost of the audits at nearly $529,000 – slightly more than the $520,000 the four senators were ordered to repay.
In a statement released on Friday, Conservative Senator Gerald Comeau, former chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee, which ordered the audits, acknowledged that the cost was significant. “However, once the audit was ordered, we had to allow it to be fully concluded in order to get a fair and consistent reading of the issues involved,” he said.
Ms. Wallin repaid a total of $152,908 after auditors found she had claimed business and personal expenses over the four-year period since she was appointed to the Senate. Mr. Harb repaid $231,649 before he resigned, and Mr. Duffy – using money provided by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff – repaid about $90,172. Mr. Brazeau was told he owes $48,745.13. Money is being deducted from his salary because he did not meet an earlier deadline for repayment.
The Senate is expected to vote early next week on a Conservative plan to suspend Ms. Wallin, Mr. Brazeau and Mr. Duffy without pay until the end of the legislative session – likely 2015. Senate Conservatives said earlier this week that they would allow the three senators to keep their life insurance and medical benefits if they are suspended, but have no plans to change the length of the suspensions or allow them to continue to collect a paycheque.
Earlier efforts to force a vote on the suspensions before Mr. Harper addresses a Conservative convention on Friday night faltered, leaving the controversy hanging over the gathering in Calgary. All three senators facing censure were appointed by Mr. Harper and removed from caucus after questions were raised about their expense claims.