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Senate audit among costliest ever: Auditor General Michael Ferguson

WATCH: Auditor General Michael Ferguson says that information regarding spending costs will soon be released to the public in the Senate’s spending report.

OTTAWA — The federal auditor general says the massive and detailed audit into more than 100 sitting and retired senators’ expenses is among the “costliest” his office has conducted.

But he stopped short of confirming the $21 million price tag Global News reported last week, saying the details of the cost are important to help the public grasp the cost.

“I think it’s best to wait and see the full cost and the breakdown,” Auditor General Michael Ferguson said in a brief interview Monday.

READ MORE: Cost of Senate audit totals $21 million, source says

Along with the report of the audit, Ferguson said his office will release what it paid out in contracts, the number of hours auditors put in and costs associated with other “support services.”

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“Once we release the report, all of that information will be there, so people can understand the context of what it cost us,” he said.

A source close to the audit told Global News recently that among the reams of auditors that spent two years combing through expenses, some were pulled out of retirement and most were on contract.

READ MORE: Some senators not fully cooperating with auditor general

Ferguson also balked at divulging information regarding the recommendations his office will make in the report, which is expected to be made available to the public in the first week of June.

However, a second source familiar with the audit said of all the current and former senators whose housing and expense claims were examined, roughly 80 are in the clear, while a 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.

Ferguson wouldn’t say whether he recommend those files go to the RCMP.

READ MORE: RCMP formally charge Brazeau, Harb with fraud, breach of trust over Senate expenses

“I’d rather not sort of put it in that context right now,” he said. “Just like all of our audits, [the public] needs to see the whole audit, be able to look at everything we’ve said and then take it into context.”
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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.

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.

“I think it’s a very important audit, and I think it’s important information,” Ferguson said when asked whether he’s looking forward to tying a bow on this file. “I think yes, we’ll all be relived in the office to have it done and have the audit issued for public consumption, but as of now we’re still working to finalize everything and we plan to deliver it on the first week of June.”

With a file from Global National’s Mike Le Couteur

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