Canadians should finally learn details about Senator Pamela Wallin's expenses on Aug. 13 when the Senate is expected to release the results of a long-awaited audit.
The chair of the Senate commitee on internal economy, Senator Gerald Comeau, said in an interview Friday that Deloitte is on track to complete their review of Wallin by the end of July. The audit will then be translated and onpassed to committee members.
A smaller steering committee made up of Comeau, Conservative Senator Carolyn Stewart-Olsen and Liberal Senator George Furey will likely meet on Aug. 12 to craft an initial Senate report based on the audit's findings.
Comeau said he has already notified members of the broader internal economy committee to be back in Ottawa on Aug.13 for a special summer meeting to deal with the audit and report.
Although the Senate has been under fire recently for a lack of transparency, Comeau said the initial discussion around Wallin's audit will happen behind closed doors.
"Committee reports are never worked on in public," he said. "A closed door meeting allows people to be more confident to express ideas or opinions."
But Comeau said he doesn't intend for the findings on Wallin to be kept secret. He said he is hopeful the committee will come to a unanimous conclusion during its meeting on Aug.13 and make its report public to Canadians later that day.
Wallin has already repaid $38,000 dollars to the Senate. Deloitte has confirmed they are examining Wallin's claims as well as the nature of her expenses, dating back to when she was first appointed as a senator for Saskatchewan in January 2009, a longer period than they were originally asked to examine.
But the fact that Wallin has already repaid the Senate some money will not influence how Comeau views the final audit, he said.
"Our mind is open on everything. We're not going to let what's happened interfere, other than the fact that she's cooperating, that's helpful to us. The fact that she has acknowledged certain issues, that's helpful to us, but we want to see the whole picture," said Comeau.
'Red flag' on Duffy's expenses
The Senate continues to keep a close watch on Senator Mike Duffy's expenses, he confirmed.
Comeau said that to his knowledge, Duffy has made no further housing claims but there is a red flag on any future claims for travel, per diems or office expenses. "All that stuff is being watched," said Comeau.
The RCMP continue to investigate Duffy's expense and travel claims, as well as the $90,000 cheque he received from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright to cover his reimbursement to the government.
Recently obtained court documents show the RCMP allege Duffy has committed offences of breach of trust and frauds on the government.
Meanwhile the Senate has also moved to get money reimbursed for housing expense claims it maintains were claimed improperly from Senator Patrick Brazeau and Senator Mac Harb. Harb has launched a legal challenge against the Senate but last week decided to repay more than $51,000 dollars even while the legal battle continues.
Brazeau's pay cut by 20 per cent
Brazeau has chosen not to make a lump sum payment and as a result his salary will be docked starting this month. Senators are paid on a monthly basis and the first garnishing of his wages, by 20 per cent, will happen at the end of July.
The chair of internal economy committee said the Senate continues to keep an eye open for anything that may be of concern. Even though the Senate has also asked the Auditor General of Canada to do a comprehensive audit of senators expenses, Comeau said Senate administration will keep their eyes open for any kind of anomaly and be "doubly alert" in light of the increased spotlight on the Senate in recent months.
"We wouldn't want to say, the AG is looking at this, so we'll look away," explained Comeau, "It's business as usual. We are doubling our efforts so that anomalies are picked up."
Comeau took over the position of chair of the committee in June after Senator David Tkachuk stepped aside for health reasons. Tkachuk was under intense pressure for his handling of the Duffy report after accusations he whitewashed the initial report and admitted he was in contact with the Prime Minister's Office during the process.
In spite of the the added scrutiny on the committee, Comeau seems to be embracing his new role.
"It's a job. Somebody has to do it. You know those old movie clips where a Sergeant shouts out for a volunteer and everyone takes a few steps back and you're the only one left standing in the front?" Comeau said, laughing about how he ended up as the committee chair.
But he said he takes it very seriously and believes his experience and longevity as a senator will undoubtedly help him. Comeau was appointed to the Senate by Brian Mulroney in 1990.
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