03/12/2013 12:09 EDT | Updated 05/12/2013 05:12 EDT

Draft report alleges NDP misused constituency funds

The B.C. New Democratic Party is being accused of operating what the B.C. Liberals characterize as a political kickback scheme, but the NDP denies it is doing anything wrong.

Documents obtained by CBC News show the NDP set up a fund to take money that was supposed to be used to run MLAs' constituency offices, and instead use it for partisan purposes.

A draft copy of an auditor general's report into NDP caucus spending states that more than $200,000 has been taken from constituency office budgets and funneled into a special fund over the course of several years.

The special fund was then used to pay for partisan activities conducted by MLAs.

Premier Christy Clark says the opposition was quick to criticize the Liberals for planning partisan activities using taxpayer funds — and she says this is no different.

"When people asked if, if there was an issue with misspending public money for partisan purposes on the government side of the house, I said we're going to review it, we're going to get to the bottom of it and we're going to fix it. I think the NDP should do exactly the same thing."

NDP defends redirected funds

But the NDP insist the fund was simply to allow resources to be pooled and they don't believe any rules were actually broken, pointing out the account of this practice was removed from the auditor general's final report.

MLA Shane Simpson, who has sat a member of the public accounts committee for several years, insists there was no violation of the rules. He says the common fund was used simply to allow resources to be pooled.

"None of the work of this fund, not one dime of it, went anywhere near our party," Simpson said.

Simpson said the allegations are coming now in order to shift attention away from the controversy over the Liberals' ethnic outreach plan.

"What they're trying to do is change the channel because they got caught using taxpayers' dollars to support efforts of the Liberal Party."

Simpson said all of the funds management was done through legislature accounts in order to ensure it was open to scrutiny.

But Liberal MLA Bill Bennett says the use of constituency funds in that manner is a blatant violation of legislature rules.

"There is certainly no allowance in the members' handbook for taking money that is supposed to be spent in your constituency and sending it back in the form of a kickback to the NDP caucus."

Ethnic outreach

On Tuesday, Clark spoke at the B.C.-India Global Business Forum in Vancouver. When asked by reporters if she would apologize to the people at the forum for the so-called ethnic outreach plan, Clark said she felt no need.

Instead, Clark said she was focused on building trade links with India.

"You look at the trade strategy with China, just in lumber it was a billion dollars. I think we can do the same thing in India," she said.

"It may be in clean tech, it may be in agricultural technology, it may be in the service sector. But it will be a very, very large number, I would suspect, just like the numbers that we've seen from China."

Indo-Canadian business people at the conference also told CBC News that they were focused on forging links with India and weren't overly concerned about the Liberal ethnic outreach plan.