NEWS

Senate ethics office suspends review into Duffy expenses

06/04/2013 06:39 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT
The Senate ethics officer has suspended her investigation into the $90,000 payment to Senator Mike Duffy from the prime minister's former chief of staff, telling CBC News she's waiting for the RCMP to finish investigating.

It was revealed May 15 that Nigel Wright, Stephen Harper's top aide, had personally written a cheque to Conservative Duffy so the senator could repay improperly claimed Senate expenses. Wright has since resigned and Duffy is no longer a member of the Conservative caucus.

Although an examination by ethics officer Lyse Ricard would automatically be suspended if the RCMP opened a criminal investigation into the Duffy matter, the other reasons for ceasing a review would be if the ethics officer suspected an offence had been committed, or if she knew a charge had been laid, or was about to be laid.

- Watch: Harper, Mulcair battle over Senate in question period

The RCMP told CBC News Tuesday that nothing has changed. However, the RCMP doesn't necessarily confirm if and when criminal investigations are launched.

Federal ethics commissioner Mary Dawson is continuing her investigation into Wright's payment to Duffy. In an email to CBC, a spokesperson said, "The commissioner’s examination of Mr. Wright is still ongoing and has not been suspended at this time."

Wallin audit may not be released until summer

Also Tuesday, the Deloitte audit into Senator Pamela Wallin's travel expenses may not be released until the summer, perhaps after the House of Commons has risen, and even after the Senate takes its summer break.

Senator David Tkachuk, chair of the Senate committee of internal economy, told reporters, "I don't tell the auditor how fast they have to do it. I'd love to have it today. You think I want this process to sit out there for the summer months? I don't."

Liberal Senate leader James Cowan said he had heard the audit would be done before the end of June. "It's likely the Senate will sit until July," he said. Results of the Deloitte audit cannot be publicly released until they are tabled in the Senate.

Wallin's travel expenses totalled more than $300,000 over the past three years. The Deloitte audit is examining her expenses for another year beyond the 18-month period used for the audits of Duffy and senators Mac Harb, a Liberal, and Patrick Brazeau, a former Conservative senator who is now an Independent. Wallin, a former Conservative senator who now serves as an Independent, has already reimbursed the Senate for more than $40,000 in expenses.

Conservative Senator introduces motion to call in auditor general

On Tuesday, government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton gave notice of a motion in the Senate calling for a comprehensive audit of senators' expenses. Although she asked the Senate for immediate unanimous consent, Liberal senators, as well as Independent Senator Anne Cools, refused.

"Tomorrow we'll support the motion," Cowan told Evan Solomon of CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He added that LeBreton offered no information about the scope of an auditor general's audit, and said he hadn't been consulted about the wording of the motion.

"The last time she asked us to consent was to deal with the Duffy report," said Cowan.

When the Deloitte reports on Duffy, Harb and Brazeau were released May 9, LeBreton urged the Senate to accept them immediately as well as the Senate's own reports on the three senators. The Liberals refused, asking to read the reports first and debate them. Had the reports been endorsed immediately as LeBreton wanted, it would have been impossible to send Duffy's report back to the auditor to be examined further.

Still, in question period today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Liberal senators several times of resisting the motion to send senators' expenses to the auditor general.

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