In lieu of the political expense management scandal that has rocked the Canadian Senate over the past few years, the Senate has increased efforts to become more transparent. A work in progress, it is clear that there are still improvements to be made.
Discrepancies Within The Expense Management System
Recently, Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson has called for more transparency after a Red Chamber financial report revealed he had the second-highest hospitality totals for the third quarter. However, Patterson claims that the “purpose” category in his filings does not provide many options to precisely detail expenditures. This is a work in progress, as the breakdown for hospitality expense claims just recently began being presented individually.
Patterson believes that there should be greater detail included with financial reporting to demonstrate that events and expenditures were for constituents.
How Did The Senate End Up Here?
In late 2012, Senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, Mac Harb, and Pamela Wallin were accused of cheating the expense management system by claiming travel and living allowance expenses for the Senate for which they were not eligible. An independent third party was brought in to examine the expense claims. Charges were filed against the four.
The Auditor General examined expense claims by all other 116 senators and former senators. In a June 2015 report, the Auditor General revealed inappropriate claims from thirty senators, recommending nine cases for police investigation.
Since then, the Senate has made changes so their expense management program, including tightening expense provisions for travel and implementing a new Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code. The Senate has also introduced a more detailed model of proactive disclosure, in addition to enhanced independent oversight measures.
As with anything, details can provide a lot of context. A uniform standard that is applicable and enforceable to all senators will surely be a continued positive step. Although the Canadian Senate has made efforts to improve the transparency surrounding their expense management, it is clear that they still have a long way to go.