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Response to Peter Worthington Column "Senate Needs Watchdog"

 

RE: Senate Needs Watchdog—Peter Worthington

I would like to respond to Peter Worthington’s December 22nd article on Senate Expenditures by stating that I have never said that auditors have no right to review Senators’ Expenses.

In fact, the Senate is working very hard to improve transparency and accountability.  It is in this spirit that we invited outside auditors to look at our processes and systems.

Our objective in doing so was simple – to identify problems, and to fix them.

All audits have recommendations, and several changes have been made as a result of that audit.

One matter that has drawn media attention, and which unfortunately has been misinterpreted, concerns the manner in which our expenses are approved.

The Senate doesn’t object to oversight, and we agree that our expenses need to be reviewed by a second set of eyes.   

Senators are responsible and accountable for their expenses. However, the Senate also has rules and limits to govern what is paid, and a vigorous process that ensures that only legitimate and reasonable expenses are paid. 

Let me explain. 

First, prior to submitting any expenses, I must sign a declaration to certify that they are proper.

Second, my expenses are sent to the head of the Senate’s Finance Directorate for approval.  This is a department run by trained accountants and bookkeepers who ensure that each expense passes the test of the Senate Administration’s rules before payment is made.   Each claim is reviewed line by line by two separate financial officers.   

Third, if they find anything that is questionable, then I must submit it to a committee of three of my peers for review before payment is made.  If that committee is not satisfied, then I must appear before a committee of fifteen other Senators to defend the expense. 

The result of this process is that a second set of eyes does examine our expenses in a manner that is more stringent and onerous than the second-level sign off discussed in the audit.

There is also the matter of public disclosure.  As of this January, I am proud to say that the travel and hospitality expenses of Senators will be posted on the internet.

Finally, it is important to note that the auditors found no evidence of wrongdoing. 

Most of the problems found concerned paperwork and documentation, and we are attending to these problems.  There is no one more concerned about accountability than I am and that is exactly why we made the document public.

Senators are dedicated to moving forward in making the institution more accountable to the Canadians they serve, and will continue to strive to manage public funds consciously and carefully as we carry out our duties as parliamentarians.

In response to Mr. Worthington’s musings concerning an elected Senate, I would like to note that the current reality of the matter is that in our country, we have chosen constitutionally to appoint Senators.  I am incredibly proud to be one of them, but I am also very proud of the fact that my Conservative party is trying to change this reality to insure that all future Senators are elected.

Senator David Tkachuk