Alberta MLA Derek Fildebrandt is once again under fire, this time, for allegedly “double-dipping” meal expenses.
According to records that came to light Monday, the United Conservative Party MLA claimed reimbursement for both restaurant expenses and a daily meal allowance — or per diem — for the same meals on multiple occasions.
Public records show on April 28, Fildebrandt claimed per diem for lunch and dinner. He also submitted a receipt for Pita Pit for $35 as well as a receipt for Montana’s Cookhouse for $136.
Then, on April 29, Fildebrandt claimed per diem for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He also submitted a receipt for Fruitatas Health Foods for $17.
Scroll down to view the meal expense claims.
Alberta Party leader Greg Clark said he found nine incidents of dual claims in Fildebrandt’s expenses, which are posted online and publicly available.
“MLAs, when they’re away from their home constituency — usually up in Edmonton at the legislature — are allowed to claim a day rate for meals of about $39 a day, which seems like a reasonable amount. That’s instead of claiming every single meal receipt. The administration of that is a lot less than processing every meal receipt,” Clark said.
“What it appears Mr. Fildebrandt has done is claim both his day rate but also claimed meal expenses for specific meetings he would have, perhaps with constituents or a staff meeting. The concern is that he may be double dipping on meals like he was with his apartment.”
LISTEN: Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark on allegations that UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt has been double-dipping on meal expenses
In a statement issued Monday night, Fildebrandt said he takes full responsibility for everything that happens in his office.
“There were some administrative errors in processing meal receipts for staff, constituent and stakeholder meetings, with a potential total of up to $192.60 over a period of two-and-a-half years,” he said.
“I am thankful that this has been brought to my attention. I should have been more careful in reviewing them before signing off. I will fully reimburse any discrepancy and take immediate action to ensure that errors like this do not happen again.
“I take the custodianship of taxpayers’ money with the utmost seriousness.”
UCP interim leader Nathan Cooper also issued a statement Monday night, which said: “These expense claims are concerning and appear to be part of a larger pattern of behaviour that is unacceptable for a member of the United Conservative Party caucus.
“We will be working with the Legislative Assembly Office and the Members’ Services Committee to ensure these expense claims are rectified.
“We will continue to review UCP caucus expenses to ensure that our MLAs are held to the highest standard.”
Last week, news broke that Fildebrandt was renting out his taxpayer-funded Edmonton apartment on Airbnb.
He later apologized and promised to give the money back to the province. He also took a leave of absence as the UCP’s finance critic.
Clark said he looked at a few other MLA expenses — of all parties — and only found a few one-time instances of double claiming.
“That’s why I’m calling for an audit of all MLA living expenses and meal expenses — to make sure that this isn’t something that’s widespread.
“What’s so frustrating for me is that the vast majority of MLAs that I know are honest and decent and doing it for the right reasons — maybe even claiming less than they’re entitled to in many cases.”
LISTEN: Gord Gillies reacts to new allegations against UCP MLA Derek Fildebrandt
According to the Legislative Assembly Office, once MLA expenses are posted online, they have been paid out.
The office said the speaker will be reviewing the nine alleged incidents of double claims.
The office pointed out the receipts do not necessarily indicate the meal was for that MLA. For instance, someone else in the MLA’s office could have eaten it.
“Unless there are concerns raised, the per diem claims and the receipts are reviewed for compliancy separately,” said spokesperson Alex McCuaig.
McCuaig said claiming a restaurant expense and a per diem for the same meal would violate Member Services Committee Order 7.3, which says: “Expenses claimed under subsections (1) and (2) shall not include any expenses for which the Member is eligible to be reimbursed in respect of the travel under any other provision of the Members’ Services Committee Orders.”