02/08/2013 03:07 EST | Updated 04/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan Auditor's Budget Approved After Tense Exchange

Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly

REGINA - A legislative committee quickly approved the budget of Saskatchewan's auditor on Friday following a delay and political dust-up a week earlier.

In 15 minutes, the public accounts committee OKed Bonnie Lysyk's operating budget of $7.9 million — an increase of $121,000 over last year.

"I might say that the approach today was constructive, co-operative in dealing with agenda items at hand," said committee chair Trent Wotherspoon, the lone New Democrat on the panel.

"Speaking as an independent member of this assembly, not as the chair of this assembly, I would say that we could have been better prepared for the task at hand last week. Our approach could have been better and, as such, I do see the meeting that we're here (for) today to be unnecessary."

Lysyk appeared before the committee for about two hours last week in what grew to be a tense exchange as members scrutinized her about her budget.

During the Feb. 1 meeting, Lysyk said: "I just hope the discussion around here ... is not a message to me and to my staff that we should not be operating independently and performing the work we think is appropriate."

The auditor has released some tough performance audits and criticized how the government reports its finances.

In December, she said it was time for the government to stop using what she called "two sets of books" to report its finances.

Lysyk said the province needs to stop reporting on a government general revenue fund basis and a summary basis, which takes into account all areas of government, including Crown corporations. She said only the summary financial report paints a real picture of the government's finances and presenting both sets of numbers can be misleading.

There were few questions at the meeting Friday. Several of the MLAs said additional information that Lysyk provided over the last week "brought clarity."

The auditor's budget was approved by everyone on the committee, which includes six Saskatchewan Party MLAs.

Wotherspoon said he wouldn't sign an attendance sheet for the meeting — which means he won't be paid the $105 MLAs get for attending committee meetings.

The Saskatchewan Party caucus office said its members would sign the attendance sheet as usual.

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