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A senator's business is public business and should be on the public tab – and that snoopy auditor just doesn't get it.

The responses of the senators found to have committed the worst expense transgressions often make the best reading in Auditor-General Michael Ferguson's report, released Tuesday.

Nearly all are in high dudgeon. More than one specifically claimed the Mike Duffy defence. The nine senators whose cases were referred to the RCMP might as well have signed a form letter with "How dare you!" written in bold at the bottom.

On one hand, it's understandable that a senator, especially a retired one, has difficulty recovering past travel records to justify expenses. On the other hand, many didn't justify expenses in the first place – and the auditor's damning conclusions about what they expensed.

Through the senators' responses, there's a sense they feel the Auditor-General just doesn't get how important they and their work are, and what they're entitled to because of it.

Retired Conservative senator Don Oliver, for example, had a staffer drive his car from Ottawa to Halifax, then fly right back. Twice. The bill to the taxpayer was $1,559. That's VIP service.

The auditors also flagged, among other things, $22,982 he spent on trips where they couldn't determine whether they were for parliamentary business or for an organization that Mr. Oliver was a member of, which promotes "the wines, cuisine, and tourism of a region overseas" – judging by Mr. Oliver's website, that's Burgundy's Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, a group of wine aficionados.

Mr. Oliver's written response shows he can't believe the audacity of Mr. Ferguson, whom the former senator accused of misrepresenting the facts. "His office has apparently now decided that it will stop valuing Dr. Oliver's word," the response states, the "Dr." apparently due to an honorary doctorate. "In doing so, the Auditor-General depends on incorrect and uninformed interpretations of the applicable rules, and uses criteria never before applied to Senate expenses."

Perhaps that's true. Mr. Ferguson's report indicates that applying criteria to Senate expenses was rarely done, except in the abstract.

Mr. Oliver's tone was not unique. Many of the 30 named for inappropriate claims said the auditor just didn't understand the rules or why their doings were public business.

For example, the auditors found it would be fine for Liberal Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas to stop overnight in Fredericton on her way home to Tobique First Nation, but she often stayed longer, up to nine consecutive nights. She replied that that's justified because she's well known around New Brunswick and "individuals feel free to approach me directly when I am in Fredericton."

Many of the nine referred to the RCMP expressed outrage. Retired B.C. Conservative senator Gerry St. Germain called the findings a "defamatory affront to my personal integrity," and said he'd told auditors "time and again" he had to shred documents when he moved. Liberal Senator Colin Kenny was annoyed he only received details of the findings in April, and said his staff spent only a small portion of their time on his personal tasks.

Another, former Liberal senator Marie Charette-Poulin didn't respond – in fact she ignored or rebuffed requests for e-mails and information over the past year, the report states.

Five of the nine senators referred to the RCMP had listed a primary residence they visited sporadically, while claiming expenses in Ottawa – the same issue that got suspended Senator Mike Duffy into trouble. These senators have been watching his trial.

Bill Rompkey, the retired Liberal senator from Newfoundland, quoted Duffy trial testimony in which former Senate law clerk Mark Audcent agreed a Senate report had linked a senator's official provincial residence with the senator's primary residence – to argue that if you are a senator for Newfoundland, you can say your residence is in Newfoundland. Former Manitoba Liberal senator Rod Zimmer similarly quoted Mr. Audcent.

And former Liberal senator Rose-Marie Losier-Cool was indignant. The Auditor-General, she sniffed, "deliberately refuses to consider the particular features of both my work as an Acadian Senator and the expense claims I submitted." Perhaps it's no wonder the auditors didn't understand her Acadian residency: she spent 16 days out of 448 in Moncton, her declared primary residence – and claimed expenses for 442 days in Ottawa.

This story corrects an early version that incorrectly stated that Sharon Carstairs didn't respond to the auditor, when in fact she did.