A high-flying Justice Ministry official claimed a quarter-million dollars in travel costs and apartment rentals, with no receipts for the majority of the expenses, an internal audit has found.
More than $118,000 in taxpayer-paid expenses are in question, according to an audit by the government comptroller general's forensic division, released Thursday.
The audit raised alarms about "significant control deficiencies" within the ministry, which paid the unnamed employee for trips and expenses without proper receipts.
The employee had claimed $226,000 in travel and accommodation during an undisclosed period, but forensic auditors focused in on $165,000 specifically.
The employee couldn't supply receipts for 118 of 157 expense claims, totalling $118,000, the audit found.
Questionable items included $70,200 for an apartment rental, with no evidence the expense was approved by a deputy minister or supported by a business case. It appears the apartment rental may have been approved in the past but not revisited when the employee changed positions, the audit said.
There was also no approval or receipts for 17 international business trips, worth $23,200, the audit said. Forensic investigators also examined $64,500 in trips between Victoria and Vancouver, as well as $7,100 for out-of-province trips.
The Justice Ministry refused to provide the employee's name or position Thursday. In its response to the audit, the ministry said the expense shortcomings would be "appropriately addressed."
Much of the audit is redacted and does not contain names, the time period in question or even the ministry responsible.
That's excessive and appears designed to protect the minister, who is ultimately responsible, said NDP critic Doug Routley.
"We don't know whether it's appropriate or whether there was any inappropriateness to this billing," he said. "But we do know the accounting and level of accountability is missing."
Justice Minister Shirley Bond said her chief financial officer is reviewing all "special accommodation deals" to ensure they are properly justified.
The employee in question has since retired from government, Bond said.
"We agree that this is not an acceptable level of accountability and tracking and that improved procedures were needed," Bond said in a statement.
"The ministry received the recommendations and have implemented all of them. We have made it a priority to ensure that our procedures are strictly enforced."
© Copyright 2013