The B.C. legislature’s internal finances are being dragged into the 21st century in response to a damning report from Auditor General John Doyle.
MLAs will start releasing detailed expense reports and conducting Legislative Assembly Management Committee meetings in public starting this month, Speaker Bill Barisoff announced after a hastily arranged meeting to respond to the audit. Two new financial staff positions are being added to address what Doyle called “pervasive deficiencies” in basic financial accountability.
The audit found that MLA credit card bills were being paid without receipts, and the legislative assembly hasn’t produced financial statements despite a 2007 recommendation from the previous auditor general. Legislature bank records didn’t correspond with actual bank balances, and records for the gift shop and dining room don’t allow for efficient management.
Doyle said a future audit will look at the $119,000 annual allowance for MLA constituency offices, which Barisoff had asked to be exempted from the current examination. Transfer amounts and salary expenditures were verified, but other expense claims were not.
Barisoff and Clerk of the Legislative Assembly Craig James emphasized that the audit did not find any misappropriation of funds. Doyle said he was unable to rule out fraud because the records aren’t complete enough to do so.
Senior MLAs for both parties sit on the management committee, which administers an annual budget of $62 million to run the legislature chamber, law clerks, library, security and other departments. They include B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman and caucus chair Gordon Hogg, as well as NDP house leader John Horgan and caucus chair Shane Simpson.
Simpson said the problems go back many years, and he wants to make changes rather than point fingers, which sparked a furious response from B.C. Conservative leader John Cummins.
“B.C. Liberal and NDP MLAs are clearly circling the wagons, resisting calls for accountability with regards to their skyrocketing expenditures,” he said.
Cummins called for Barisoff to resign for failing to get the management committee to intervene sooner, a suggestion Barisoff dismissed as a product of the summer “silly season” where trivial items make the news.