WATCH: Of the 30 cases flagged for improper spending, AG Michael Ferguson said nine were referred to the RCMP for further investigation.
Did you know you paid for a senator to play a round of golf? Or for another to travel overseas to promote local wine and cuisine?
Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s report uncovered those facts as well as how some senators charged the public purse for fishing trips, to have their staff attend celebrations of personal milestones, or to have used public funds for meals and living expenses while in Ottawa, even though it looks like that’s where their primary residence was (if you think that sounds a lot like how Mike Duffy ended up in court, you’re right).
Among the 30 senators fingered in the auditor general’s long-awaited report are nine whose claims were considered so egregious it was recommended they be passed to the RCMP.
In some of those nine cases the auditors were definitive in their findings; they said Sens. William Rompkey, Sharon Carstairs, Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool and Rod Zimmer all falsely claimed their primary residences were outside of the National Capital Region despite spending the vast majority of their time there.
IN DEPTH: The Senate Scandal file
In other cases, the auditors just weren’t so clear on what to decide, either because the senator had shredded his documents, was evasive or ordered their files not backed up on the parliamentary network. In those cases, the auditors flagged the claims and hung a question mark over them.
Here’s a look at what the nine senators who are being referred to the RCMP are on the hook for, as well as their defences:
Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu $61,076 flagged
From January to December 2012, the senator spent 45 days in his “home” of Sherbrooke, Que. During other periods covered in the audit, he spent up to 90 days.
He said he was going through a separation during that time, though he continued to live in Sherbrooke and pay for the home.
Aside from the living expenses, the bulk of Boisvenu’s questionable expenses, $38, 577, arise from travel from which the auditors said he benefited personally (some of the events to which he travelled, such as to speaking engagements where he would sell his book, he had done before becoming a senator).
The senator defended those claims, saying he doesn’t receive personal remuneration for the speaking engagements or book sales, but that both relate directly to his public duties to represent victims of crime and their families.
Colin Kenny $37,000 flagged
Kenny listed his primary residence as Ottawa, but still racked up at least $35,549 in travel claims that auditors couldn’t determine were actually for parliamentary business, especially considering he didn’t sit on any committees during the audit period.
Problems determining details of his travels were made even more difficult because the senator had asked Senate administration to not back up his electronic calendar file.
The auditors also took issue with the fact Kenny seems to have paid his staff for personal things like planning and booking appointments and paying personal bills.
He defended that, telling auditors his staff spent “only” 12 minutes a day on average doing that sort of work (he had his staff conduct an analysis of the time spent on those activities).
In his response to the audit, Kenny said the audit team was sometimes difficult to work with, not providing clarifications when needed in order to understand and defend the claims in question. The senator also said he got the sense that a trip taken for Senate business was invalidated if the senator had any personal appointments or activities, even when the personal parts of the trip cost the Senate no money.
“Invalidating an entire trip on account of one personal appointment seems disproportionately punitive,” he wrote in his response to the audit.
WATCH: Ferguson said they had been following the Mike Duffy trial and the resulting testimonies, but only applied the existing principles of the senate spending practices in his investigation.
Gerry St. Germain $55,588 flagged:
This file presented a particular difficulty for the auditors, since St. Germain said he shredded his parliamentary documentation and therefore couldn’t provide a lot of the information they needed.
After going through the senator’s claims, auditors determined close to $4,500 worth of travel was for personal gain (he sat on a board based in Edmonton).
The bulk of the questionable claims in his file, however, came from paying his staff to travel to celebrations at his home, a wedding anniversary party and retirement party held in the senator’s honour.
The balance of the nearly $56,000 in question is from contracts St. Germain issued, gifts and hospitality claims.
St. Germain, like many of his colleagues, disagrees with the auditors’ findings.
“I find these apparent accusations to be a defamatory affront to my personal integrity,” he wrote in his response to the report.
Donald Oliver $48,088 flagged
Oliver is another example of a retired senator who made his way onto this list because the auditors said they just didn’t have enough information to support any assertion his expenses were incurred for Senate business.
The report noted Oliver was a member of a not-for-profit organization that promotes wines, cuisine and tourism overseas; he founded the Ottawa and Halifax chapters of the organization and focused on promoting those regions. The auditors found almost $23,000 in travel claims that they couldn’t determine, for lack of evidence, were to take care of Senate business or his promotion business.
There was no question, though, about $11,252 Oliver claimed while travelling to attend a convocation ceremony in Kingston, Ont., go golfing in Montreal, visit a tailor, take a fishing trip or to twice have his staff drive his car to Halifax then fly back to Ottawa, according to the audit.
Although he repaid a small portion of the flagged expenses ($1,442), the senator said the findings in this report were “not factually correct.”
Oliver also took issue with the fact the auditor general “declined to disclose his specific concerns several times, despite specific requests.” All claims Oliver made as a senator were made in “the utmost good faith,” and he is committed to working to correct any honest mistakes he may have made, he wrote.
WATCH: Oversight, accountability and transparency of senators’ spending were, in general, inadequate, the AG said.
Rose-Marie Losier-Cool $110,051 flagged
It seems auditors had little question to where now-retired Losier-Cool’s primary residence was. During the 448 days her appointment overlapped with the period covered by the audit period, she spent 16 days in Moncton, which she claimed was her primary residence.
The living expenses, travel claims and per diems she and her husband made as though they lived in Moncton, rather than in the National Capital Region, make up the bulk of what she’s on the hook for.
The auditors placed a big question mark over another $46,225 in travel claims for which they said she didn’t keep adequate records.
In her response to the findings, Losier-Cool said the auditors “deliberately refused to consider the particular features of both my work as an Acadian senator and the expense claims that I submitted.”
Prior to her retirement, the senator spent time advocating a number of issues including the status of women in Canada and in other countries around the world, she wrote.
William Rompkey $17,292 flagged
Most of the questionable expenses the auditors raised in Rompkey’s files arise from their determination the now-retired senator should have claimed Ottawa as his primary residence, not St. John’s, N.L.
The auditors based that on the fact that, of the 42 days his appointment overlapped with the audited period, he spent only eight in St. John’s. For comparison’s sake, they looked at how he split his time during the previous fiscal year and found he spent 161 days in Ottawa compared to 53 at his “primary residence.”
The auditors’ findings also “ignore” the fact his responsibilities with the Senate fisheries committee required him to spend more time in Ottawa and to travel, he wrote.
WATCH: Question Period gets heated about Senate audit report
Rod Zimmer $176,014 flagged
Zimmer paid income and property taxes in Winnipeg and held a driver’s license from Manitoba, so considered that his primary residence. But his travel patterns didn’t support the claim, the auditors wrote.
The now-retired senator spent 613 of the 731 days covered in the audit period in Ottawa. For many of the trips he took to Winnipeg during that time, Zimmer either returned to Ottawa the same day or spent only one night away.
With this in mind, the auditors found $47,132 of living, housing and per diem claims they say were ineligible. On top of that, the flights, taxis and per diems he and his wife claimed for trips to Winnipeg with no apparent tie to parliamentary business cost more than $100,000, the auditors found.
The auditors also noted Zimmer never returned a borrowed digital camera and some computer equipment after retiring.
Zimmer responded to the report noting his health concerns, which included recurring throat cancer and pneumonia, forced him to cut back on his travel to Winnipeg – and ultimately led to his retirement.
Still, he voted in federal, provincial and municipal elections in Winnipeg, paid his taxes there and has his vehicles registered and plated there, he wrote, which would make it his home.
Sharon Carstairs $7,528 flagged
Carstairs retired 61 days into the period covered by the audit but still ended up on this list because she should have listed Ottawa, instead of Winnipeg, as her primary residence, the auditors said.
Of those 61 days audited, Carstairs spent 22 in Ottawa and eight in Winnipeg.
Thinking those couple of months may have been an anomaly, the auditors decided to get an idea of her travel patterns prior to retirement. Looking at her expenses from the previous fiscal year, however, they found she spent 32 days in Winnipeg compared to at least 153 in Ottawa.
Carstairs defended her expense claims, saying she voted provincially and federally in Manitoba, paid her taxes there and had her driver’s licence and car registered in Manitoba, therefore making that her primary residence.
Marie Charette-Poulin $131,434 flagged
The auditors experienced some trouble with this senator’s files; they met with her six times during the spring months of 2014, after which they asked for her expenses. They two sides met again in July to discuss the request, at which time the auditors imposed a July 31 deadline to receive the documents.
On the day of the deadline, Charette-Poulin asked for clarification on the request … and on and on until December 2014 when the auditors wrote to her lawyer. They were eventually provided access to some of the requested materials by March 2015.
The expenses in question for Charette-Poulin, therefore, were difficult to nail down, but auditors flagged some travel claims, contracts, taxis, courier services and hospitality claims.