OTTAWA - Canada's auditor general is in the planning stages of a Senate expense audit that will examine the spending practices of every member of the troubled upper chamber.
Michael Ferguson's audit could take at least a year to complete, said a source familiar with the plan the auditor laid out earlier this week for the Senate's internal economy committee.
The performance audit will look not only at individual senators, but also at how well the institution is managing its resources, said the source, who was unauthorized to disclose details and so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The wheels for the audit were set in motion in June when Conservative and Liberal senators agreed to invite Ferguson to scrutinize the way they spend taxpayers' money.
They approved a motion that allows the auditor to examine every expense claim made by every senator, if he so chooses.
The motion was aimed at restoring public confidence in the Senate, which has been badly shaken by allegations of improper expense claims from four senators — former Conservatives Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau and former Liberal Mac Harb.
In an interview with Global News, Ferguson said his office would be looking at the expense claims of individual senators and "going through those on a specific basis."
Ferguson said he expects to begin the audit shortly — a process that can take up to 18 months. And he's leaving open the possibility of releasing initial findings long before the audit is completed.
"We haven’t come to that decision yet, but we understand that people don’t want to wait 18 months to get all the information,” he told Global. "So if there’s any way that we can do some interim reporting, we will do that."
The issue of Senate expenses jumped back on the front burner this week with the release of an independent audit that found Wallin claimed $121,348 in inappropriate expenses and called for further review of nearly $21,000 in additional claims.
Wallin has already repaid $38,000, and has said she would reimburse any disallowed expenses — with interest — out of her own pocket.
But Wallin has dismissed the Deloitte audit calling it "fundamentally flawed and unfair."
The Senate has alerted the RCMP to the results of the audit.
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