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B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer resigns days after releasing audit into legislature expenses

B.C.'s auditor general has announced she is stepping down from the job before her term ends, just days after delivering a report on legislature misspending. Richard Zussman reports.

B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer has resigned her post 18 months early for “personal reasons.”

Bellringer will stay on the job until Dec. 31 to assist with transition.

“I have been honoured to serve as B.C.’s auditor general since 2014 and would like to assure all members of the legislative assembly and the public that I will be available to assist with the transition until Dec. 31 and afterwards,” Bellringer said.

“The Office of the Auditor General has a strong workforce in place to support changes and its highly professional, skilled staff will ensure that the important work of the office continues as outlined in the Operational, Service and Coverage Plans.”

Bellringer has been thrust into the spotlight around the misspending at the B.C. legislature.

READ MORE: B.C. legislature clerk Craig James retires, found to have committed ‘administrative misconduct’

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The auditor general was asked to look into the practices and procedures at the legislature, and produced a report last week.

The report found a lack of policies to oversee legislature spending, but fell short of what Speaker Darryl Plecas was looking for.

“While I was hoping that a forensic audit would be completed, and that the audit would reach back to 2011 rather than only 2016, I accept and respect that the auditor general proceeds according to her own mandate and authority,” Plecas said last week.

“While not a forensic audit, this report is an important contribution and step forward on the path to reform.”

WATCH: Auditor general releases report into B.C. legislature misspending

Auditor general releases report into B.C. legislature misspending
Auditor general releases report into B.C. legislature misspending

The audit was done following an investigation by Plecas’ office leading to allegations that millions of dollars of money at the B.C. legislature was misspent.

Clerk Craig James retired after former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverly McLachlin found he had committed administrative misconduct. There is still an ongoing RCMP investigation underway looking into the issues Plecas raised.

Sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz is still on administrative leave. He was cleared of misconduct by McLachlin but is still the subject of a Police Act investigation and the ongoing RCMP investigation. James has denied all wrongdoing and hopes to return to his job.

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READ MORE: B.C. auditor general finds ‘weaknesses and gaps’ in legislature expense policies

Plecas originally questioned whether Bellringer was the right person to be conducting the audit. The speaker asked for someone outside the province to review the books and the all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee agreed to go that way.

But that was then changed after Bellringer said she was unhappy MLAs were set to hire an auditor from outside the province.

“To not have their support is a problem,” Bellringer told the Vancouver Sun in January.

“I did not see that coming. I don’t know why they reached that decision. Now that it is out there, the part I don’t understand is having kept it from our office, they are now suggesting I can’t do an audit of what’s been revealed. That’s problematic. We certainly have the ability to just do it ourselves.”

READ MORE: Speaker Darryl Plecas says his office turned over information to police not in Plecas Report

On a conference call last week to answer questions about the report looking into the clerk, sergeant-at-arms and speakers offices, Bellringer was asked whether taxpayers can have faith in her.

A reporter on the line raised questions over why Bellringer did not look into certain allegations in Plecas’ original report that could be categorized as fraud.

“There was one transaction that was included in a report that we are saying may already be being followed up with but we are not privy to knowing that,” she said.

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“We are saying we are waiting for that. We are saying there was a report done that was specifically tied to the report that deals with that information. Because we haven’t done all of that because suddenly the credibility of my office is questioned, I’m sorry, I take exception to that comment.”

Bellringer has promised her office will conduct additional audits into spending at the legislature. Premier John Horgan thanked Bellringer for her time on the job in a statement.

“I am very grateful for Ms. Bellringer’s many years of exemplary service. British Columbians are indebted to Ms. Bellringer for her hard work on behalf of the people of this province,” Horgan said.

“Her diligent work has informed improvements in the way our government is run and in the way programs and services are delivered to the people of this province. I am pleased that she will be staying on through the end of the year and to assist with the transition to a successor. I wish her and her family all the best.”

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