Carolyn Stewart-Olsen has “learned a lot.”
The Conservative senator who sits on the internal economy sub-committee – the three-member steering committee accused of whitewashing a report on Sen. Mike Duffy’s expenses – denies there was a deal to go easy on him or that she knew about Nigel Wright’s $90,000 cheque.
But, she admits the committee could have done better.
“I don’t think we probably did our job as well as we could have,” she said in an interview Tuesday.
For one, it was later revealed Duffy had what some are calling a pattern of double-dipping expenses, such as claiming per diems while campaigning for Conservatives outside of Ottawa.
“There were a lot of additional things that kind of came out after we had presented that report,” she said.
“That’s why we asked that when the report went to the Senate that it be recalled and go back to internal so that we could review the new information.”
Both Stewart-Olsen and former committee chair Sen. David Tkachuk, admitted being in touch with the Prime Minister’s Office during the audit, and Tkachuk told Maclean’s he had spoken to Duffy about per diems claimed while he was in Florida.
“I think we learned a lot,” said Stewart-Olsen about her first audit process, which also included reports on Senators Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau.
“I learned a lot about trying to work fairly with everyone. You don’t talk with people who are being audited.”
Stewart-Olsen says she hopes to maintain a “balance” in the committee’s treatment of Sen. Pamela Wallin’s upcoming audit.
“You have to be aware of their privacy, but you also have to be aware of the public’s right to know. You have to try to work a balance out there, and that’s what I will be pushing very hard for with the upcoming Wallin report,” she said.
After the three-member steering committee reviews the audit, she said she has no problem with the larger internal economy committee being open to the public.
“I think we were fair and honest in our initial reports as well,” she said.
“Hindsight is a great thing.”