British Columbia's Auditor-General has raised concerns about a five-year practice in which B.C. NDP caucus members pooled public funds to largely pay for the multicultural outreach services of a former member of staff now seeking a legislature seat in Vancouver.
"Some payments from the fund were not deemed to be adequately documented nor clearly of direct benefit to the collective NDP constituency offices," said a briefing note for the government's all-party Legislative Management Committee, disclosed by The Canadian Press.
The document described the operations of the NDP Members Constituency Office Centralized Fund, and was connected to leaked portions of a draft report from Auditor-General John Doyle.
"From 2006 up to Dec. 31, 2011, the fund has made total expenditures of $459,790 and currently has an unexpended balance of $145,773. The Auditor-General has questioned the authority by which the fund carries forward the unspent balance from year to year," said the document.
The disclosure Tuesday brought new B.C. Liberal attacks on Gabriel Yiu, recipient of most of the funds. Mr. Yiu is the NDP candidate in Vancouver-Fraserview. Last week, the Liberals were raising questions about Mr. Yiu working in caucus outreach between runs for the legislature in 2005 and 2009. This week, they noted that the pooled funds largely paid Mr. Yiu's salary.
Culture Minister Bill Bennett called on the NDP to apologize for the program that saw NDP MLAs pool $202 per month each in constituency office allowances ostensibly to respond to common constituency needs.
According to the briefing note, the majority of $459,790 in spending from the fund was for the contracted services of Mr. Yiu, who has worked as an adviser to caucus, but left those duties in light of his political candidacy.
Ironically, the Liberals announced, with great fanfare Tuesday, that former Vancouver city councillor Suzanne Anton would take on Mr. Yiu in Fraserview.
"Certainly I would acknowledge that two wrongs don't make a right," said Mr. Bennett, noting the Liberals had made a mistake with their ethnic-outreach plan, which prompted the resignation of the Premier's deputy chief of staff as well as the multiculturalism minister, and there have been apologies as a result.
"This is an entirely separate incident," he said. "From a political perspective, it's an unexpected gift, I guess, from the NDP," he said.
Mr. Bennett called for an investigation by the Auditor-General or another independent party to make sure the money was used for the designated purposes. "Given the NDP's desire to rake us over the coals and, perhaps, deservedly for this memo, this plan, I think there's reason to have this investigated quickly."
But the NDP said there was nothing to the story and the Liberals were again trying to change the subject from their troubles.
"Frankly, absolutely nothing inappropriate was done," said Shane Simpson, the NDP caucus chair. "I think they're raising it because they are mired in scandals."
Mr. Simpson said the caucus sought to find a way to increase multicultural outreach in a way that would support every member of caucus. He said the caucus sought the legislative comptroller's advice, and he administered the fund. The comptroller was not available for comment.
"No money went to supporting the party per se. The money was all invested in the caucus and caucus support. We're all pretty comfortable with it."
A spokesperson for Auditor-General John Doyle declined comment on the situation.