Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Duffy's per diems questioned

Cellphone records track whereabouts

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OTTAWA -- What began as a probe into Sen. Mike Duffy's primary residence has morphed into something much more explosive.

The issue is not just whether Duffy lived most of the time in Prince Edward Island or Ottawa, but that he allegedly misrepresented his whereabouts to line his pockets with taxpayers' money.

Senate officials took an independent audit completed earlier this month that included Duffy's cellphone records and used it to cross-reference living-expense claims made by Duffy. They were able to pinpoint 49 days when the senator claimed Ottawa living expenses when he was not there.

Duffy signed all the paperwork when he submitted the claims. A daily living expense for Ottawa ranged between $86.35 and $88.60.

Here are some of the details:

  • Duffy claimed and was paid for Ottawa living expenses during the federal election campaign on six days in April 2011 and one day in May 2011. Elections Canada documents show Duffy was not in Ottawa, but campaigning in Western Canada, Toronto and in Atlantic Canada with Tory candidates.
  • In August 2011, Duffy claimed 18 days of Ottawa living expenses when he appeared to be in Charlottetown. Senate administrators turned down that request.
  • Duffy was in Florida for 17 days in January 2012, but claimed living expenses in Ottawa over 13 of those days. Duffy told auditors that was a "clerical" error and blamed a temporary worker. But Senate officials say it was his regular staffer who filled out the documents.
  • On June 6, Sept. 1, 2, 9, 12, 13 and Oct. 3, 2011, and March 23, 2012, Duffy claimed Ottawa living expenses while he was in P.E.I. He was paid for some of those days.
  • On May 25, Sept. 21 and Oct. 6, 2011, Duffy claimed Ottawa living expenses while he was travelling elsewhere. He was paid for some of those days.

"If people want to be dishonest or people want to cheat, they'll find a way," said Tory Sen. David Tkachuk, chairman of the committee that's studying the expenses issue.

"It happens in all businesses, all institutions, all corporations, it has happened in the House of Commons."

The question of whether Duffy misrepresented his travel expenses remains unresolved, and the Senate does not appear to be delving into that. Officials did not verify if Duffy performed Senate business when he claimed he was doing so outside Ottawa.

Duffy never met with auditors from Deloitte, and failed to produce several pieces of documentation they requested. The Senate's internal economy committee voted late Tuesday to refer the matter of Duffy's expenses to the RCMP.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2013 A10

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