Pamela Wallin will likely have to repay some of the expenses that auditors asked the Senate to rule on.
The audit into the Saskatchewan senator’s expenses found she claimed a total of $121,348 in expenses that should not have been claimed, but flagged another $20,978 in expenses – mostly for “networking events” – that may have been improper. The auditors asked the Senate for an “interpretation” on those expenses, one that appears set to be carried out by a small subcommittee of Conservative Senators Gerald Comeau and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, as well as Liberal George Furey.
The Senate subcommittee met Monday and Tuesday, and Ms. Stewart Olsen says Ms. Wallin will likely be on the hook for more than the $121,348, but the work is ongoing. No new meetings are scheduled, and the process could take several weeks.
“Our review indicated it may well be necessary but based on some further research from finance [officials in the Senate],” Ms. Stewart Olsen said in an e-mail.
Ms. Wallin has already repaid $38,369.29 of the $121,348 the Senate is now seeking. Of the remaining $20,978, Ms. Stewart Olsen said she did not know how much Ms. Wallin will be asked to repay.
Auditors listed a series of events, meals and meetings with business leaders, charity officials, a director of a wealth management firm, the chair of a media company, a long-time Bay Street investor, a former bureaucrat and a Canada Post official. None were identified by name in the audit. Auditors said that while the occasional event might come up in Senate business, and therefore be eligible for an expense claim, “the volume and pattern of the events listed would not qualify them as Senate business.”
Among the events subject to interpretation is a reference to “Fairchild TV – PMO,” referring to a Canadian Chinese television station and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The PMO says it has no record of what that might have been, or whether it asked Ms. Wallin to speak to the TV station.
“We can find no record of our asking her to do media on that date. That said, we have had significant staff turnover since that time and so I can’t be definitive as our records might not be complete,” PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall said.
Ms. Wallin has said she was asked to be a “different kind of Senator,” one who was more active in government, and argued she took the meetings as part of an effort to reach out to stakeholders. She hasn’t said who asked her to serve that role.
It’s not clear whether the trio will rely solely on the audit, or whether they’ll speak with Ms. Wallin. The review “may take some time,” Ms. Stewart Olsen added. All three senators had returned to their home provinces or were travelling on Thursday.
The case has been handed over to the RCMP, who are now investigating Ms. Wallin as well as fellow senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Mac Harb. All still sit as senators, though no longer serve with their party caucuses.