Senator Pamela Wallin filed a travel and expense claim for attending a speaking engagement in Toronto in 2009. The only problem was her flight arrived four hours after the start of the event for the Institute of Corporate Directors. Worse, she didn't address the crowd of high rollers because she wasn't on the agenda.
There might be a good explanation for this and other similar anomalies in her expense filings -- she claims she may have attended the event later in the evening and that she probably got the year mixed up with another year in which she did speak -- but she will have to explain it all to the RCMP.
Ms. Wallin has a lot of explaining to do after the auditing firm Deloitte discovered she wrongly billed nearly $122,000 in travel expenses over a three-year period that must be repaid, with another $21,000 subject to interpretation and further review.
Among other things, it portrays the senator from Saskatchewan as suffering from an inappropriate sense of entitlement and privilege, frequently unable to separate her private and public roles.
Her defence that the rules changed since she filed the questionable expenses is disingenuous, since the basic rules of Senate administration did not change significantly.
The Senate committee on internal economy has referred the case to RCMP, while restricting her right to travel on the public dime, but it's hard to see how she can carry out any of her duties under the current cloud of suspicion.
She says she wants to serve the public, but the best way to do that would be to resign and set an example for others.
It's an understatement to say the audit of her travel expenses is highly disturbing and disappointing, just the latest in a series of blows to public confidence in the Senate and elected officials in general.
The Senate scandals are not a justification for abolishing the Red Chamber -- although that always remains an option -- but they point to the need for still greater oversight and clearer rules.
Cynics might recommend regular forensic audits on every public official, but such a system would be impractical and destructive if it turned good people away from public service.
Ultimately the system only works if public officials are committed to exercising sound judgment when spending taxpayer funds on travel, hotels, meals and other eligible expenses.