Redford’s misuse of travel spending caused by ‘aura of power’: auditor general
WATCH: In a report released today, Alberta’s auditor general says former premier Alison Redford abused her position, and used taxpayer money ‘inappropriately.’ Jayme Doll has the story.
EDMONTON — Alberta’s auditor general says an aura of power around former premier Alison Redford and her office stopped anyone from questioning their spending.
“There was a tendency to work around and ignore rules,” Merwan Saher said Thursday afternoon, after the release of his much-anticipated report on government travel and other expenses.
In it, he concluded that Redford and her office used public resources inappropriately while she was premier.
“They consistently failed to demonstrate in the documents we examined that their travel expenses were necessary and reasonable and appropriate use of public resources,” his report stated. “In other words economical and in support of a government business objective.”
WATCH: Alberta’s auditor general, Merwan Saher, speaks about his damning report
According to the report, Redford used government aircraft for personal and partisan purposes, and was involved in a plan to convert space in a public building into personal living space, referred to as the “sky palace.”
Saher concluded “the aura of power around premier Redford and her office and the perception that the influence of the office should not be questioned” led to inappropriate spending.
“Influence is a power seen only in its results,” Saher said in his public address. “[Those] who had to interact with the premier…felt sort of ‘trapped'”
When asked whether any cabinet ministers knew what was happening, Saher said that wasn’t part of the scope of his investigation. He added, however, that he would not be naming any individuals because he did not want to engage in scapegoating, and blame individuals for the “shortcomings of others.”
Saher also suggested that staff who had to interact with the premier “felt sort of trapped.”
“Throughout the audit we heard an unwillingness or level of discomfort for government departments or other staff within the office to challenge or question Premier Redford and her political staff’s expenses and use of government aircraft,” the report stated.
Still, Saher laid the blame squarely on Redford and her staff.
“It would be wrong for anyone to extrapolate our findings and conclusions to the public service of Alberta as a whole.”
Finance Minister Doug Horner said that while he oversaw the transport agenda, the responsibility for the misuse rests with the former premier.
He claims he was unaware of government aircraft being used for partisan events, and said the public would be reimbursed for them.
Despite two of Alberta’s three opposition leaders calling on him to resign, he says he has no plans to do so.
WATCH: Horner responds to the auditor general’s findings
Horner did say that he accepts Saher’s six recommendations, which include that the Treasury Board monitor the premier’s expenses and the use of official aircraft. Saher also suggests the government should clarify its planes policy to ensure they are not used for partisan purposes and to make sure flights are cost effective.
On international missions, the auditor general says that only a partial amount of the costs are posted — he says that’s a long-standing government practice that must end.
Saher also admitted there has only been “partial repayment” by Redford for the instances of personal use of aircraft.
Redford resigned as premier in March as a caucus revolt brewed over her leadership style and lavish spending.
She resigned her seat as a backbencher Wednesday and in a letter, acknowledged mistakes were made during her time in office.
She said she would not comment further.
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said he has arranged for prosecutors from Ontario to work with the RCMP on a review of Redford’s expenses.
Denis said the use of out-of-province lawyers is needed to ensure an independent investigation and remove any perception of a conflict.
With files from The Canadian Press
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