Nova Scotia auditor general finds inappropriate spending by politicians

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Some Nova Scotia politicians have filed expense claims that were "excessive or inappropriate" because of inadequate spending controls that invite errors and misuse, the province's auditor general says.
In a report released Wednesday, Jacques Lapointe concluded that inappropriate claims were made by some politicians for personal items, including nearly $8,000 for a generator installed at a member's residence and $1,260 for parking lot sanding from a company owned by a member's brother.
Excessive expenditures included $13,445 for custom-made office furniture, $5,501 for a laptop computer and $790 for a model boat office display, Lapointe said.
"We found a number of cases in which support for expenditures was deficient or did not provide adequate information to determine whether the claim for reimbursement was appropriate," Lapointe said in his report, noting that some claims were provided without original invoices or evidence that payments were made.
Lapointe audited the expenses filed by and paid to members of the legislature between July 2006 and June 2009.
"The extent to which system weaknesses, processing errors, innocent mistakes or conscious decisions by members contributed to these expenditures is unclear," Lapointe said.
In a separate statement, Lapointe explained why he did not identify the politicians whose expenses he questioned.
"Ultimately, I decided to exclude members' names from the report, not for their protection but because I hope to focus attention on a broken system that requires fixing, rather than on individuals," he said.
"(But) the argument can be made that there is both a public interest and right to know."
Lapointe said some procedures have since been tightened and some politicians have paid back money.
Lapointe said the legislature's 52 members receive significant funding for which they are not accountable, adding that regulations aren't clear on the purpose of the funds provided.
Lapointe also found that 44 members paid out over $410,000 to 157 staff in a way that is unclear whether the money is subject to taxation.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, HALIFAX

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Recent comments

  • Big A
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Would these politicians spend so much if it were an out of pocket expense? not a chance. There are people that struggle this time of year just for basic needs, yet they can drink coffee from a $700 coffee maker? There is something wrong here. Never enough money for the things that matter like new schools or better roads. How does the sanding of a politicians brothers parking lot even get passed off as an expense?
    They should be fired & be charged with fraud & theft.

  • CAROL
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Mr Clarke(MLA from Cape Breton North)said- No MLA I know of knowingly is trying to bilk Nova Scotians out of their tax dollars .Mr Clarke, I would love you to tell us just what YOU would call it. The auditor general said it's the first time in 15 years these expenses have been reviewed. I d like to know how much money was BILKED in that period.Why the blanket of secrecy?Who do these MLA's think are paying for this abuse?If this was an employee in the REAL WORLD we'd be fired on the spot!!

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    All of these personal expenditures would qualify as taxable benefits under the federal Income Tax Act. The value of any of these items that would normally need to be purchased out-of-pocket, but have instead been purchased out-of-MY-pocket should have been claimed as income and tax appropriately. I think it would be a fair guess that this has not been the case, so each MLA should be audited by the CRA, heavily fined for tax avoidance (if so found) and be made to pay back taxes for as far back as 7 years. Prior MLAs shold be investigated as well, and all of the findings should be made public so as to discourage this behaviour in the future!

  • CAROL
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Mr Clarke(MLA from Cape Breton North)said- No MLA I know of knowingly is trying to bilk Nova Scotians out of their tax dollars .Mr Clarke, I would love you to tell us just what YOU would call it. The auditor general said it's the first time in 15 years these expenses have been reviewed. I d like to know how much money was BILKED in that period.Why the blanket of secrecy?Who do these MLA's think are paying for this abuse?If this was an employee in the REAL WORLD we'd be fired on the spot!!

  • Shocked
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    IM SO SHOCKED & DISSAPPOINTED!!!
    If we cant trust politicians, who can we trust?!?!?
    Gosh next thing you know were going hear about some lawyer that pads his bills.
    Actually Im OK with politicians over spending as long as they dont break their election promises.
    Ive even heard rumors that some movie stars are NOT nice people & may live excessive lifestyles.
    Whats this world coming to?

  • newsgirl
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    The real disgrace is the rule that lets MLAs keep their office equipment, furniture, overpriced coffe makers, etc. that they bought on the government's dime after the electorate is finished with their services. That's right. In Nova Scotia, those government paid goodies don't become government property. When the MLA leaves office, all that stuff goes with them. And people say the feds are wasteful. Evey item is accounted for and inventoried and when the MP is finished with his/her time in office, they don't get to keep any of it, which is just how it should be!

  • obeau
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    OMG The first out to say he is going to pay it back is the premier ,a former cabinet minister with a generator wired to his residence and saying it was bought for someone else and he is storing it .how stupid do they think the taxpayers are. I bet this is just the tip of the iceberg .any who are involved should have to pay back with severe pentalies and they should face criminal charges as I am sure the average citizen would WHAT A DISGRACE

  • Another 2 Cents
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Disgusting!

    But I am sure they will use the excuse...

    But, I didn't know!

    Well, not only should they have known, it is their job to have known, but they should pay it back in full including interest and offer to step down as the MLA.

    If someone did this where I work, they would be repremanded perhaps fired.

    Like I said...disgusting!

  • Dan
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I think we're all aware of the... (let's call it what it is) misappropriation of funds or theft - from the taxpayers of NS.

    The auditor should really publish the findings so that the voters know who did exactly what. What happened to an accoutnable and transparent governing system? I highly suggest everyone email or mail the auditor general asking for release of the names of these politians. These people should not get away scot free - like leaving the scene of a drunk driving accident.

  • Tim
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    This is a disgrace for sure!! They should be fined and charges laid. I know that all of the places i've worked over the years would never let this sort of thing go. People would be fired and charged and that is exactly what should be happening to these people. If they are that stupid that they didn't know i don't want them running the province, and (more likely) they are just theifs taking far more than warranted, i don['t want them running the province either. We need people to step up and HELP our province, not rip it off!

  • Point
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Interesting! You will note that it is our new government, an NDP government, that is bringing these inappropriate expenditures to light by appointing an auditor to clean up the situation. Current NDP MLA's may have overspent, but you will also note that they have been the first in line to recognize their responsibility to pay back any questionable expenses. (Some have even done so before the release of the auditors report)

    No previous government ever admitted to any amount of questionable spending, and did there best to hide overspending (Example: A $ 525 million dollar deficit from the Conservatives, which they swore was a balanced budget!!!)

    It is encouraging to me to see that the new government is doing their best to make themselves and future governments accountable to the people of this province.

    Stop shooting the messenger! The new government is doing exactly what they said they would do. They are bringing the accounting procedures of our government out of the Dark Ages. It is sad to think that they will probably not be able to benefit from the changes they bring forward, since the local mindset will be to punish them for 4 or 5 years of fiscal restraint to rein in the deficit foisted on this province by 150 years of Conservative and Liberal mismanagement.

    If the NDP are not re-elected for bringing this province out of hawk, the next government will inherit a fiscally accountable, balanced budget economy and be made to look like geniuses for doing nothing but complain about being out of power for the past five years.

  • LMAO
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    and the beat goes on. Please Taxpayers, remember these things when you get into a discussion about which party best represents the people. Get hold of yourself before you make a fool of yourself. They are all the SAME.

  • Away From Amherst
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Hey folks and they have been in office only a short couple of years. Can you just imagine what the other old parties bilked us for over the years past. It just shows confirms that having power does not corrupt good people but put those same people around and unlimited supply of money and........

  • sparky00
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    If you did this sort of thing at your job, do you think that your employer would just let you pay it back? of course not! You'd be fired, and depending on what you swindled probably face criminal charges.
    This just goes to show that all three parties are the same and can't be trusted. We don't need a new jail now, we'll just add seats in the legislature.
    IMO