06/07/2012 01:29 EDT | Updated 08/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Expenses for Old port of Montreal boss out of line, committee says

OTTAWA - The Commons ethics committee says a $10,000 expense bill racked up by the president of the Old Port of Montreal during a trip to the South Pacific was out of line.

The committee's latest report, issued today, calls for a broader investigation into spending at the corporation.

The committee calls the costs submitted by port president Claude Benoit inappropriate and unacceptable.

Benoit charged $10,000 in expenses related to 12 days of work during a 29-day personal vacation to Australia and New Zealand in late 2008 and early 2009.

She says she was gathering information on behalf of the popular Montreal tourist spot, although she met no local officials during her trip.

She produced a 115-page report on her return which was heavy on photos and light on content.

Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose has already arranged for a third party to oversee spending at the Old Port of Montreal and the auditor general is conducting a special review of the corporation.

Both Conservative and NDP MPs were harsh in questioning Benoit when she appeared before the ethics committee last month.

At one point, she complained that the port was the subject of a smear campaign. She told the committee she followed all spending rules.

Gerry Weiner, chairman of the Old Port board chairman, defended Benoit, saying he had full confidence in her.

Old Port spokeswoman Nadia Paquet said the agency would not have any comment until after the auditor general completed his report.

The committee report suggested a broader investigation would be necessary to determine if the controversy is symptomatic of deeper problems with the board.

"The committee is concerned that these expenditures may be symptomatic of a broader lack of accountability and governance with the board structure at the Old Port of Montreal Corp.," the report said.

The report asked the government to investigate further and report to the House of Commons.

The Old Port is a subsidiary of the Crown-owned Canada Lands Corp.