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Cost of Senate audit totals $21M

WATCH: Michael Ferguson’s audit of the Senate will cost taxpayers $21 million — far more than any amount of misspending uncovered so far. As many as eight senators have been singled out as egregious spenders. Mike Le Couteur reports.

OTTAWA — Federal auditors were pulled out of retirement and set up with dozens of colleagues in a satellite office to help a massive and detailed audit that cost $21 million — but only flagged a fraction of that in questionable spending, Global News has learned.

A source close to the audit said reams of auditors, mostly on contract, have spent two years scrutinizing the expenses of more than 100 current and former senators.

The upper chamber invited federal Auditor General Michael Ferguson almost two years ago to audit senators’ expenses. The call came as the Senate was awash in controversy after senators Mac Harb, Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy had their living and housing allowances subject to an independent audit.

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Following those independent assessments, the Senate ordered the trio to repay tens of thousands of dollars in what were deemed wrongly collected allowances.

The RCMP has since charged all three with fraud and breach of trust; Duffy is also facing one charge of bribery.

The audit has had some snags throughout its course, for example some senators were not completely cooperative.

In February 2014, Global News reported that some refused to sign a letter promising to fully cooperate with the auditor general in the unprecedented audit of each member.

A second source familiar with the ongoing audit said of all the current and former senators whose housing and expense claims were examined, 80 are in the clear, roughly one dozen had some expenses flagged and subsequently asked to explain the claims, and between five and eight senators had expenses labeled “egregious.”

Of those most questionable spenders, the potentially illegitimate claims range from $5,000 to $200,000 per senator, the source said.

The Office of the Auditor General said it will provide the full cost of the audit once work is completed, which is expected to be next month.

“The office has conducted the audit of the Senate in the same way that it conducts all performance audits,” a spokesman for the auditor general’s office wrote in an emailed statement. “This includes the use of specialists and outside advisors if necessary; examining documents, conducting interviews and analysis; and ensuring that audit standards are adhered to.”

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