02/01/2013 08:24 EST | Updated 04/03/2013 05:12 EDT

Craig James Criticizes John Doyle, Describes 'Boiling Animosity'


VICTORIA - The growing tensions between British Columbia's take-no-prisoners Auditor General John Doyle and members of the Liberal government and officials at the legislature spilled out inadvertently Friday.

Freewheeling debate from what officials thought was a closed legislature was pumped through speakers that could be heard throughout the building.

B.C.'s clerk of the legislature Craig James was heard at one point describing the relations between his office and that of Doyle's as one of boiling animosity.

"There's been this disconnect and boiling animosity between this place and the office of the auditor general in terms of the propriety of certain discussions and certain statements that have been made about various audits of this place," said James during debate at the legislature.

The comments were made during the annual gathering of the presiding officers of the speakers, deputy speakers and clerks from legislatures across Canada, including the House of Commons.

Last summer, Doyle released an audit of the financial management of the legislature that concluded the building's financial records were in such a state of disorder that he couldn't conclude if money was being properly spent.

Doyle's report found that MLA credit card bills were being paid without receipts and the legislative assembly hadn't produced financial statements despite a 2007 recommendation from the previous auditor general.

James told the all-party legislative management committee last October he's been making progress on getting the legislature's financial books in order with the help of outside agencies.

James said Friday he is meeting with officials from Doyle's office next week and he will ask: "what is it that you are doing?"

James said he's had a request from Doyle's office for all the financial documents relating to the 2011-2012 financial year, at least 28,000 documents.

"We're not interested in a fishing trip," he said.

After the meeting, James said he believed the discussions and debate of the presiding officers was a closed session.

"It's supposed to be all off-the-record," he said.

But James said he understands that comments broadcast throughout the building are public and could be reported.

B.C.'s Speaker of the Legislature Bill Barisoff was overheard in the legislature saying Doyle's audit unfairly criticized B.C. politicians.

He said Doyle's audit found that MLAs were not submitting receipts for their expenses, but the receipts were being submitted at later dates.

"We got tagged with a brush here and got painted with, 'no impropriety, couldn't find any,' but the impression was all the members in the B.C. legislature are getting paid all these expenses without receipts and that wasn't the case," said Barisoff.

Doyle's office issued a statement saying he was conducting business as usual and the meetings with James will be held next week.

Doyle, who has released hard-hitting reports on failures of government computer systems, has been embroiled in an on-going controversy over his future as auditor general.

His six-year term is due to expire this year, but an all-party government committee decided against re-appointing him for a second term and posted ads for a replacement.

But after a public outcry, Premier Christy Clark promised to amend legislation covering auditors general and introduce a new law that holds them to a single eight-year term. She also suggested the committee vote to offer Doyle a two-year re-appointment.

Doyle has so far not officially replied to the offer, choosing instead to blast the committee's deliberations.

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