Former B.C. auditor general John Doyle embroiled in dispute over his expenses

B.C.’s current and former auditors generals are locked in a bizarre dispute over expenses that stretches from Victoria to Australia.

Former auditor general John Doyle said he’s owed benefits from the provincial government after departing this year, but is locked in a complex disagreement over certain expenses and entitlements with the Legislative Assembly and acting auditor general Russ Jones.

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The disagreement was presented to MLAs at the legislature’s management committee during an in-camera meeting on Thursday. Jones said after that he couldn’t comment.

However, in an interview from Australia, where he now works as a state auditor, Doyle said the province has stopped paying the annual leave that he accumulated during his B.C. tenure and is still entitled to after his contract expired Oct. 31.

The former auditor general left B.C. in May, after Liberal MLAs nixed giving him a second term as the province’s financial watchdog. Doyle said he signed a deal with Bill Barisoff, then Speaker, to get salary and benefits — believed to be worth approximately $32,000 a month — until his contract ended in October, so long as he resigned and left for Australia.

“They wanted me out of the province before the election,” Doyle said. “I was quite prepared to stay until the end of my term, and they were trying their hardest to move me along.”

However, Doyle said he’s still owed “several months” of leave. “They’ve stopped paying because of all this kerfuffle.”

The so-called kerfuffle appears to involve tens of thousands of dollars in relocation and moving expenses to Australia, which Doyle said were covered in his contract with B.C.

The office of B.C.’s Auditor General paid for first-class flights to Australia for Doyle, his wife, who is ill and requires constant medical care, and a nurse.

Doyle said he agreed to pay for the nurse’s flight after Jones argued the nurse did not have an up-to-date licence. The woman was an employee of the B.C. Auditor General’s office who used to be accredited as a nurse, but who was also a friend moving to Australia, Doyle said.

The situation became even more complicated when the deputy finance secretary in Australia determined some moving expenses Doyle had claimed from the Australian government weren’t covered in his written agreement.

“We concluded in the end that the expenses that I’d claimed for removal [from Victoria] was inappropriate, and the expenses I’d claimed for the nurse was inappropriate, and therefore they would have to be reversed,” Doyle said.

Doyle said he then wrote to Jones and said he must claim those expenses from B.C.

Doyle said the amount he was supposed to reimburse B.C. for the nurse’s flight, about $11,000, could offset the other expenses he felt B.C. owed him because they were “roughly the same.”

“I had agreed I owed them the travel expenses for the nurse, and they had agreed that they owed me the expenses for removals from B.C. to Melbourne,” Doyle said. “I thought that was the end of the story, but apparently it wasn’t.”

The two sides are now locked in a disagreement over repayment.

There also appears to be disagreement over additional pension benefits Doyle accumulated during his term, though Doyle said they were outlined in his contract.

“It was not something I awarded myself,” he said. “Basically, I had a poor contract and no documentation, and as a consequence we’re having all these difficulties years later when quite frankly all of this could have been avoided if they’d written a decent contract, which is what they do in Melbourne.”

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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