B.C. legislature clerk resists auditor general’s demands, sees 'boiling animosity'

B.C.’s auditor general wants to examine every financial transaction made by the legislature last year, in a continuation of his scathing look into financial mismanagement at the capital buildings.

John Doyle has requested all financial moves made by the B.C. legislature in 2011-12, which represents more than 28,000 transactions, said Craig James, clerk of the house.

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“Why?” James asked. “Why do you want all 28,000 financial transactions? And so there’s no explanation. We’re not interested in a fishing trip.

“I expect the Office of the Auditor General to provide the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia with a plan.”

James made the blunt comments Friday as part of a closed-door meeting with clerks and speakers from other Canadian provinces, held in the legislative chamber.

The proceedings were broadcast unintentionally on the legislature’s public speaker system.

Doyle’s request for more information comes less than six months after his release of a previous, scathing, audit into legislature finances.

In an August report, Doyle said the financial bookkeeping at the legislature was such a mess that he couldn’t verify totals or determine whether any money was missing or misspent.

The move prompted a chastened group of MLAs to promise more transparency on financial matters and a restructuring of financial leadership at the legislature.

They also promised better cooperation with the auditor general. However, James, who as clerk is effectively the CEO of the legislature, acknowledged hard feelings and “relationship problems” remain.

“There’s been this disconnect and boiling animosity between this place and the Office of the Auditor General,” James said in his speech.

“Next week I’m meeting with the representative of the Office of the Auditor General to get to the bottom of, ‘What is it that you’re doing?’ ”

The legislature would like to see an audit plan from Doyle’s office before it complies with his request, said James.

“I think that’s only fair,” he said.

Auditor general John Doyle’s office said Friday it has asked for the legislature’s entire computerized financial ledger system, but the legislature has yet to respond. A meeting between the two sides is set for Tuesday.

Asking for the records is part of the process of a normal audit, his office said.

“It’s business as usual and we expect full co-operation,” Doyle said in a statement.

“We have a couple of lines of inquiries in addition to our normal work.”

Doyle will continue to audit the legislature until all financial weaknesses are addressed, his office said.

Speaker Bill Barisoff, who is supposed to be the ultimate boss of legislature finances, told his provincial counterparts that B.C. MLAs were unfairly criticized by the auditor general in the audit.

Doyle’s reports claimed that he did not find receipts from MLAs for credit card expenses, when actually the auditor never actually asked to see those receipts, said Barisoff.

“In all fairness I don’t think we got painted with the brush we should have,” Barisoff said.

The Speaker’s comments contrast with the legislature’s letter of response to Doyle’s audit last year, in which it acknowledged shortcomings in financial practices and pledged to work with the auditor to improve accounting.


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