06/10/2015 03:02 EDT | Updated 06/10/2016 05:59 EDT

Quebec Conservative senator Dagenais defends expense claims for staffer

OTTAWA - Conservative Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais says he did nothing wrong by claiming travel expenses for a member of his staff who never embarked on the travel in question.

A scathing audit of Senate spending says Dagenais sought reimbursement for staff travel that never took place, including a trip from Ottawa to Montreal for an employee who was already in the destination city.

Dagenais said Wednesday he was within his rights because the employee is based in Ottawa, and therefore entitled to claim the cost of travel from that city —even though he was in Montreal the whole time.

A Conservative senator since 2012, Dagenais says there are no written rules regarding travel expense claims — and said he will continue to charge similar expenses.

"We must not forget one thing: there are no written rules," Dagenais said. "If there is a policy on travel expenses, they should provide it."

Auditor general Michael Ferguson has asked Dagenais to repay about $3,538 in expense claims.

Dagenais said he plans to challenge the findings in the arbitration process.

And he said he has no intention of repaying similar claims made between 2013 and the present day.

A former Quebec provincial police officer and unsuccessful Tory candidate in 2011, Dagenais is just one of 30 senators whose expenses were flagged in the auditor general's report.

Dagenais' stance contrasts with that of his colleague, government Senate leader Claude Carignan.

A staffer for Carignan repaid $3,500 "on the spot" for the similar expenses Dagenais filed for.

In the case of Carignan's office, claims for this kind of travel ended in 2013.