Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wallin's $350,000 travel-expense audit should be made public

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Sen. Pamela Wallin used to be a national journalist. She should know as well as anyone the days of willy-nilly spending of public money with no accountability are gone. The taxpayers' message has been consistent: It's OUR money, and when you spend it, you had better be responsible with it -- and be prepared to prove it. But the 21st century appears not to have fully penetrated the oak-panelled walls of the Canadian Senate chamber.

At the same time as at least three senators are being examined over dubious out-of-town living expenses (worth $22,000 a year), Wallin is facing an external audit over her travel-expense claims of more than $350,000 over 27 months. The audit will be kept secret, says Conservative Sen. David Tkachuk, who chairs the Senate committee on internal economy.

The protective fog of secrecy and evasion being wrapped around Wallin is completely out of sync with the expectations taxpayers have of accountability and transparency. First, Tkachuk said there was no audit, then later said he misunderstood the question. Then he said the audit was because "There were some unusual items. Nothing illegal, but very unusual." Then he said it was a random audit. Then he said the results of the audit would not be made public unless something wrong was found. Now, he suggests it will not be made public at all. No wonder many Canadians want the Senate abolished.

If Wallin is spending taxpayers' money, she has no right to keep the accounting of how it is spent, or the results of an audit of that accounting, from public view. Shame on her and her colleagues.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2013 A15

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