Changes needed on Senate housing allowances: Marshall

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Sen. Elizabeth Marshall

A Newfoundland and Labrador senator who had an important role early on in efforts to examine how some of her colleagues used housing allowances says changes are likely needed.

"You just keep tightening things up, and I'm sure that there's further things that we can do in the future as we move through," Sen. Elizabeth Marshall told The Telegram.

Marshall, who was in Kelligrews on Tuesday for a federal-provincial funding announcement on infrastructure projects, chaired the subcommittee that examined the living allowances of senators Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb. A former provincial MHA, Marshall was also the auditor general in Newfoundland and Labrador for 10 years.

Concerns were raised that funds were improperly claimed by listing a primary address outside the Ottawa area. Senators in that position are eligible to claim up to $22,000 annually to maintain secondary accommodations in Ottawa.

An independent audit found in its conclusions that rules governing housing claims need to be clarified and said Brazeau and Harb, along with Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, should pay back housing allowance funds.

Brazeau was kicked out of the Conservative caucus earlier this year after he was charged with sexual assault and assault in connection to an unrelated matter, while Harb resigned from the Liberal caucus last week.

Harb has been asked to reimburse the Senate close to $51,000 and Brazeau almost $49,000.

"It was a difficult process in that we were auditing colleagues," said Marshall, whose subcommittee retained the services of external auditors for its work.

"We did actually start the audit of Senator Brazeau as a committee and found that there was so much detailed work involved, we just didn't have the resources to do the work," she said. "The other thing is, I haven't been auditing for 11 years, and things change. Technology changes."

Marshall said it was ultimately determined that auditors with a forensic background were required to handle the matter.

The audit involving Duffy, a P.E.I. senator, was connected to a different Senate committee than the one Marshall chaired. Duffy reimbursed the Senate for $90,000 in March to cover an amount he had previously claimed through the housing allowance.

On Monday, The National Post reported that the RCMP national division's sensitive and international investigations section is looking at the internal economy committee's report, the independent audit, and relevant expense claims.

- With files from The Canadian Press

arobinson@thetelegram.com Twitter: @TeleAndrew

Organizations: The Telegram, Senate committee, National Post RCMP

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, Kelligrews P.E.I.

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Recent comments

  • taxpayer
    May 15, 2013 - 13:27

    Senators are suppose to make the laws not brake then. Two sets of rules one for Canadian taxpayers and one for government I hope the next government in power can fix this . Social media is what is going to make or brake a good government

  • Jon Smith
    May 15, 2013 - 10:55

    The senate has the apparent sole purpose of providing the federal government party in power with the means to dole out patronage appointments which amount to an elite form of welfare for the lucky chosen. It should be abolished and erased from our memories for all time.

  • Townie
    May 15, 2013 - 08:45

    I guess with the Harper appointees we have a less able group of new senators, ie. those that can't answer the question "Where do you live?". It seems it wasn't too difficult for those who came before in the last 150 years.

  • Harvey
    May 15, 2013 - 08:24

    Ms. Marshall, the one and effective way to make reform in the senate, is to do away with it.I see that you're doing what Fabian Manning did until the electorate defeated him. What useless exercises. A waste of our money.