February 3, 2010        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION      No. 24


The Commission met at 9:00 a.m. in the House of Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Good morning.

I would like to welcome members and staff to a regular meeting of the House of Assembly Management Commission. We will start our meeting as we normally do, for the benefit of those people who are viewing by the medium of television, by having members and staff introduce themselves. I will start at my immediate left here with Ms Keefe.

MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk’s Office.

MS JONES: Yvonne Jones, MHA for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair.

MR. RIDGLEY: Bob Ridgley, MHA for St. John’s North.

MS BURKE: Joan Burke, MHA for St. George’s-Stephenville East, and Government House Leader.

MS MICHAEL: Lorraine Michael, MHA for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Kelvin Parsons, MHA for Burgeo & LaPoile, Opposition House Leader.

MS LAMBE: Marlene Lambe, Chief Financial Officer.

MR. MACKENZIE: Bill MacKenzie, Clerk.

MR. SPEAKER: My name is Roger Fitzgerald, Chair of the Commission.

In my capacity as Speaker, being Chair of the Commission, I would like to welcome Mr. Ridgley as a member of the Commission as well.

We will start by the adoption of the minutes from our previous meeting of December 2, 2009. Members have had an opportunity to read a copy of the minutes. If there are no errors or omissions, would somebody move that the minutes be adopted as circulated?

MS MICHAEL: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Ms Michael, seconded by Ms Burke, that the minutes of the December 2, 2009, Management Commission be adopted.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: We have also met and had three meetings, in camera sessions. On January 12, 13 and 19, the Commission met in camera to discuss budgetary items for the 2010-2011 budget estimates for the Legislature and statutory offices. The budgetary measures were approved by the Commission and submitted to the Minister of Finance for inclusion in the Estimates for 2010 and will be voted on in the House of Assembly.

The next item on the agenda is under Tab 2, Delegated Authority Respecting Urgent Financial Matters – and this is for reporting purposes only - a situation where the hon. Member for the Straits & White Bay North required renovations to a government-owned, Crown-owned, building in St. Anthony. In order to carry out the repairs and the refurbishing of that particular office to accommodate his constituency office, there was a cost incurred by the Legislature of $22,800. The hon. member will be occupying that office, and my understanding is that there will be no rental charged back to government; that will be a one-time cost.

The next item will be the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair for an aircraft charter from Sandy Cove to Forteau, for a cost of $587.60, and that was to travel to scheduled meetings within the hon. member’s district. This had to be done due to weather conditions, and commercial flights were not available for the times. Also, the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair for another charter from Cartwright to Black Tickle to Goose Bay, for $3,051.00, again, for attending meetings and getting to and from places in her district.

Moving on to the next page: the hon. the Member for Torngat Mountains for accommodations and meals - again, under special circumstances - for a cost of $106. This is an overnight stop, again with the member trying to get to her district in Northern Labrador.

The next item would be the hon. the Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair, $53 for an overnight stop en route to her district, as well, in Labrador. The next item is for the hon. the Member for the District of Cartwright of L’Anse au Clair, for $122.18.

Those were special arrangements for members travelling to and from their districts, and all within the budget and all within their allotment for travel within that particular heading in budgetary items.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: If I may, I would like to raise a point with regard to the first piece that you spoke to, and that was the expenditure for constituency office renovations. I am not speaking to the approval; I just want to raise an issue that at some point I think we should talk about. I know it is not on the agenda, so I am putting it out for something to be talked about at some point. Because you did speak to those of us on the Commission who are to be contacted, because you wanted to contact us about this before approving it, and I was really concerned about the fact that Transportation and Works did not see it as a responsibility, as a landlord, to do accommodations. I was upset by it, especially because of the reason they gave – that it was not in the budget – when I know that every year that we have gone to Estimates with Transportation and Works there is always all kinds of money left over that I have questioned and asked about during Estimates; and here they are telling us that they could not do renovations to one of their buildings for an office that would be the constituency office for an MHA of government.

If that had been rented in any other building, the landlord would have done the renovations. It may have gone into the cost of the rental. You know, you may have seen the rental a little bit higher because of it, but landlords do renovations. I really was not happy with this because of that reason, because of Transportation and Works refusing to do the renovations, and I think we need to have a discussion about it. Like I said, it is not on the agenda for today, but now that this is publicly out, I wanted to raise it as an issue, I think, that needs to be brought up with Transportation and Works with regard to their responsibility to MHAs, and to MHAs when it comes to constituency offices.

MR. SPEAKER: Just to respond to your remarks, we did approach Works, Services and Transportation. We did meet with the deputy minister, we did meet with the minister, regarding this particular proposal, and it was flatly refused. The member is entitled to an office in the member’s district. This was the only space that was available. There were tenders put out and nobody responded. So we thought that, instead of getting into the debate of who should do it, we should provide the member with office space; and, while we are spending the $22,800 from the Legislature account, there is no charge for rent.

That was the decision; but, by all means, we can attach it for further discussion on another agenda, if that is what you want, and I ask the Clerk to make note of that.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.

MS JONES: Just a correction in the report on (inaudible) the aircraft charter from Cartwright to Black Tickle to Goose Bay; that should read from Charlottetown to Black Tickle to Cartwright and Goose Bay.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, that correction will be duly noted.

Just for information as well, you will look and see that one of those charges was from 2008: the first one there under Report on Section 40. That was no reflection on the member; this was a direct bill that came, and would come, from the company themselves to the Legislature. That is why you will not see an appeal there for over the sixty day submission, because that is for members making submissions rather than companies making submissions. That was, hence, the delay in this particular bill and why it is showing up today and not back sixty days from October 21, 2008.

The next item on the agenda would be Caucus Operational Funding Grants. As members will know, this item came up for discussion some time ago. This is, again, an item whereby each member of caucus gets a sum of money according to a set rate - I think it is $100 a month for each member - to each caucus for special purchases.

Members thought that this particular fund should be duly accounted for. It was brought up as a concern here at a former meeting, at another meeting, and we thought that we would bring it back now with a proposal.

The Clerk, I understand, has polled the caucuses. There have been some reports come back, and some suggestions, but in light of having something prepared and having a policy established, in the absence of having that, we are putting forward a proposal here that members have had an opportunity to look at. If there is a willingness to even add to, or take from, or accept this policy, then we can go forward with every member and every caucus knowing that those funds are duly received and duly accounted for.

Commentary?

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: In section 3 there, it indicates how much is paid a month. Is that paid each month, or quarterly, or semi-annually? How is it paid to caucus?

MR. SPEAKER: It is paid monthly.

MR. RIDGLEY: Paid monthly.

MR. SPEAKER: It would be paid monthly and I understand that each caucus would be responsible, up until now, for doing their own due diligence in seeing how that money is spent and accounted for, and signing officers provided to write cheques and control the account.

Those are suggestions. Those are only suggestions that we put forward in order to create something that might generate interest, in the absence of having something already.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I have a couple of questions more for clarification, I guess, to understand what it means here. One is under the first section, Transportation and Communications, and it says, "Travel, meals and accommodations associated with luncheons such as Board of Trade, Combined Councils of Labrador conference, and similar functions." That is fair enough; I understand that. Would that include if somebody who was speaking at one of these luncheons was a member of government, like an MHA or a minister, and then someone from the caucus travels to attend that, so their expenses would be covered?

These are non-partisan activities, so the Board of Trade, you could go down and speak or anyone could be invited down to speak. It says, "Travel, meals and accommodations associated with luncheons such as Board of Trade, Combined Councils of Labrador conference, and similar functions". So, if an MHA is going to travel to a Board of Trade luncheon in Corner Brook or Gander or St. John’s or wherever, and the speaker is an MHA or a minister or the Premier, it is still seen then, under this, that is perfectly acceptable and is not considered political or that you would…. I just want to clarify that that is acceptable here.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

What we had really intended there was staff of a caucus or someone representing a caucus; so, for instance, a caucus Chair or so on. We are trying to avoid any overlap between individual members who have their allocation under the Members’ Resources and Allowances Rules. So, if this was just you, as an individual member, wanting to attend a meeting, I think you would cover under your allocations. This was more focused on a caucus representative or the staff of a caucus, as opposed to a private MHA travelling.

MS BURKE: Okay.

So, for instance, my constituency assistant in Stephenville could potentially travel to St. John’s if the Premier was speaking at a Board of Trade meeting, to attend the luncheon.

MR. SPEAKER: That would be an extension of what the Clerk said, Ms Burke, because your constituency assistant can still travel to St. John’s for purposes that would be considered under your constituency allowance; and, by virtue of you having that allowance, your constituency assistants could access it as well, with your permission.

MS BURKE: Okay.

I just would not, under the constituency allowance, look at that as an acceptable reason to travel and –

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

MS BURKE: I would consider it constituency business only that I would take out of that fund.

CLERK: We would accept that. It is permitted under the rules. Now, you would have to authorize that you would permit your CA to go and do such things - it would really be your call – but within the rules that would be an eligible expense.

In general, what we tried to do on that page 2 of 3, the caucus office and staff, Transportation and Communications, Supplies, Purchased Services, essentially we are trying to divorce that from individual MHAs, and the individual MHAs could only avail of those matters listed towards the bottom of the page - that is in connection with caucus meetings - so that there is a clear demarcation between the allocations a member has under the rules versus this miscellaneous funding that the caucus has. We did not think the caucus funding should be used to supplement the individual MHA allocations, so we tried to make that distinction.

MS BURKE: Okay, fair enough.

I have a couple more questions. It is not that I disagree; I am just looking for clarification. Under Supplies, it says, "Gifts for visiting delegations or individuals…" and I am just wondering what we mean by individuals. Is that like visiting individuals as visiting delegations?

MR. SPEAKER: I think you see here, as well, the Speaker gets $100 a month under the same budgetary item here. Many times the Speaker hosts a visit by some ambassador or some other person coming to the Province here, meeting with government, and the protocol asks the Speaker to host a luncheon. It is customary that there is a gift exchange, and that is the one that I would refer to here, but go ahead.

MS BURKE: Okay, that is fair enough. I only wanted to clarify it. So, should it say: Gifts for visiting delegations or visiting individuals?

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, so are you –

MS BURKE: Because a visitor could be in from Mount Pearl.

CLERK: That was certainly the intention. We could –

MS BURKE: I am just trying to clarify it, because when you read it –

MR. SPEAKER: We could tighten up the language there, to make it more clear, if people need a comfort level with it.

MS BURKE: Okay, those were my questions.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.

MS JONES: Just to follow up on the questions from Ms Burke, first of all, when we were asked to give advice it was strictly based on how this fund would be used for our caucus offices and our staff. It had nothing to do with our constituency, it had nothing to do with us as MHAs, and that was clearly my understanding at the time.

In terms of the feedback that we have given – obviously, in our office, our budget on a monthly basis is $800. I think in a government member’s office that is around $3,000 a month. It may have even exceeded that at this point. The NDP, I think, is at $800 a month, as well, is it, Lorraine?

MS MICHAEL: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: It would be, yes.

MS JONES: The idea was: What do we use this money for? What is an acceptable use of this money?

I think what you are seeing here is basically the kind of expenditure that we require to use this money for, in order to carry out the responsibilities in our office.

In relation to things like the Board of Trade and the Combined Councils, I think those two are examples that are given because they are examples of non-partisan activities where oftentimes, if we were not available to go ourselves, we would send a staff member to attend that Board of Trade luncheon, or to attend the Combined Councils annual meeting, and be able to cover their costs associated with that. That would all be a part of the function of carrying out the business in the offices of the various caucuses. That was the intention with the feedback, and how we got to the kind of guidelines that are listed here.

In terms of what is acceptable and not acceptable, I had a question with regard to section 5 on ineligible items, and one of those was Web site maintenance. I am curious to know why this is not a cost that would be acceptable to that fund, simply because right now that fund is what we use to do some forms of advertising; we use it to get printing materials done; to subscribe to newspapers, either on-line or copies that are delivered at the office; we use it to file for Freedom of Information requests, to access information through that medium. So, why would it not be permissible to use it as part of Web site maintenance, which is another form of media, to be able to obtain information within our offices?

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: Ms Jones is right; this is a bit of a grey area. I think the reason we put it there as an ineligible, or proposed it, was the possibility of it getting into sort of partisan activities and so on, and we did not feel it was appropriate if it went that way.

I notice, for instance, you have a separate Liberal Party site but you have your Official Opposition site, and there is a clear distinction which you keep between the two.

It could be argued that it is a legitimate purpose to do something like the Official Opposition site - you would never want it to go to the party site - but if the Official Opposition site was communicating with the public on activities of the Official Opposition or the government party you could argue that, yes. It is not a hard and fast.

MS JONES: You know, I do not think the party site even enters into the equation.

CLERK: No.

MS JONES: It is not permissible. It is maintained by the party, which is a separate board outside of our caucus offices.

CLERK: Yes.

MS JONES: It is a totally affiliate organization in all three parties, but as an opposition office we see it as a very necessary tool in the work that we do. We post things regularly to the Opposition office site, we solicit information from people, and we get e-mails through that site in which we communicate with people in the public, but I do not feel it should be a cost that we should have to pay for ourselves, out of our own pocket. I think it should be part of the expenses of our office, and whether it comes out of this particular fund or whether it can come out of our administrative fund is really irrelevant to me, but I think in one place or the other it should be a necessary expenditure that is covered.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael?

MS MICHAEL: I would like to support what Ms Jones is saying. We do not have a separate site for our caucus office, but if we decided to have it then I would be saying exactly the same thing; because there is a distinction between the party and the caucus. While a caucus office may choose to use the site of the party to make reports to party membership - and there is nothing wrong with doing that, because the parties have their own Web sites and pay for them - that is fine, but I think that a caucus should be free, whether it is the Official Opposition or a third party or even the caucus of the government, if they wanted, to have a Web site. Then I think it is a legitimate expense of the caucus office because it is non-partisan; it is just presenting what is happening within the caucus, whether that is what is happening in the House itself or what is happening with regard to policy discussions of the caucus. I see it as a legitimate expense of a caucus office, if a caucus wanted to have a separate Web site.

MR. SPEAKER: Fair enough.

Any further commentary?

Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: Just simply that as long as the other bullet there under Ineligible items, "Expenses associated with partisan political activities", if that was maintained –

MS MICHAEL: Yes.

CLERK: - so that the Web site could not be used for that, there is probably no real issue here.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we ask for a vote….

Okay, Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I guess we should make a particular vote saying we should exclude that section. It just does not make any sense. Having a Web site, as an Official Opposition, is a legitimate activity. I do not know why we would pass a policy with that in there. I think we should exclude that, so I have no problem; I move that we adopt the policy as submitted, excluding that piece about the Web site maintenance.

MR. SPEAKER: Members have also had an opportunity as well to look at the Summary of Expenditures as suggested. Is that acceptable as well? That way we can include it all into the one motion before we vote.

There is also a suggestion, if you look at the next page there, of what we feel is a way for the caucuses to report at the end of the year a summary of their expenses so the Clerk can have some understanding of how the money is spent and some responsibility for the funding that is provided. Do members have any problem with that particular section?

Ms Jones.

MS JONES: I am just wondering, the way the budget is broken down on an annual basis, it shows expenditures under each heading that is permissible to a certain level for a total expenditure, I think, throughout the year of $10,000. What is the annual budget of the Conservative caucus right now?

MR. SPEAKER: No, this is just for information purposes. Those figures are only put there as a sample of what might be, just for clarification.

MS JONES: Okay.

MR. SPEAKER: It has nothing to do with what caucuses get or what amounts of money that would show under those headings.

MS JONES: Okay, because I thought you were capping those expenditures -

MR. SPEAKER: No, no.

MS JONES: - which would restrict the amount of money that they could spend.

MR. SPEAKER: No, just an example.

Okay, what I am hearing is, there would be approval here in item 5 if we eliminated Web site maintenance as an ineligible item and if we, under the supply section, used different language on that particular item as well. The language would be gifts for visiting delegations and visiting individuals to a maximum of $200 per gift. That being said -

The Clerk.

CLERK: Just a little clarification. Rather than deleting the Web site maintenance outright, what we will do is we will move it to the eligible expenses under Caucus Office and Staff Purchased Services. So, it is officially listed as eligible.

MR. SPEAKER: With those changes, it is moved by Mr. Parsons and seconded by Ms Michael that the Commission approves the Caucus Operational Funding Grants Policy dated February, 2010.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item is item 4 and the issue is the Auditor General’s response to the Commission on possible discretionary allowance overpayments. As members know, this particular item came up for discussion at other Commission meetings. We have gone to an outside auditor for a forensic audit report by Grant Thornton. We have gone to the Auditor General to see if there was any clarity as to what monies are owed here and I think we are talking about in total a sum of approximately - and the Clerk or the Chief Financial Officer can correct me if I am wrong - approximately $53,000 in total.

CLERK: No, $24,000.

MR. SPEAKER: Twenty-four and a twenty-nine?

CLERK: No, $24,000 by twenty-nine members is what the Auditor General said in his report.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. So it is a total of $24,000.

CLERK: Yes, plus Mr. Snow.

MR. SPEAKER: $24,000 in total –

CLERK: Twenty-nine members –

MR. SPEAKER: - by twenty-nine members.

CLERK: - plus these four individuals.

MR. SPEAKER: In the absence of those other four individuals?

CLERK: That is right.

MR. SPEAKER: That is because that is not included.

We have gone back and the Auditor General has said, and the outside auditors said, that there is no clarity, as if this money is actually owed. Members did not expend beyond their allowance levels. We feel that we have gone as far with this as we can go without involving other auditors and probably receive another report of almost like a fictional happening here. We want to ask the direction of the Commission as to where we go with this. We do not feel, and other people have advised us, I think the Auditor General in his commentary, that there probably would not be enough evidence here to hold up to try to collect the money. So we are looking for direction from the Commission as to when we let this go or where do we go with it to try to get further clarification that we have not been able to get from the AG and from an outside auditor.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: When you look at it, and you look at the list, that most people, the majority of people who had any type of double billing here or whatever, adjusted it and paid it; took care of it. For instance, I will just speak to myself, there was $241 and there was $241 repaid to rectify the situation. Now I never expected to have any lawyers involved or sue the government or do anything. I completely accepted the fact that there were errors in the way the accounting was done and repaid the money. We were asked to look at it and to make the adjustments, which we all did, with the exception - now, there are a few. There are three there right now who obviously have court orders to repay and they have been through the system. I do not know why we do not write the people who are involved and ask them.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, this is not the list that we are referring to. This list here is a current list of monies that members asked for an update on the double billings, which is what this was, of the amount that is owed. Those are the people that owe double billings. Some of them have given us - and the Clerk can tell you, if you want, who the people are that have given us post-dated cheques that we are working from, other members have put a repayment schedule in place.

The double billings, for all intents and purposes, have been looked after. Members who have gone beyond the limits of their constituency allowances have been looked after by the Auditor General. The monies that we are talking about here were monies that the Auditor General and the outside auditor could not clearly identify if it was spent properly because the receipts and the documentation provided were not clear.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Yes, so let me continue.

There has been a number of those double billings here, and there is still some of those outstanding when we look at this, not a whole lot right now, but when you look at it, it comes to $14,000 when you go into the summary of the accounts receivable for double billings.

The point I am making is that when the double billings came to light, when everyone looked through their accounts and we determined if there were any errors there, that people paid it when you go through that list. So when you go through the first page it shows there the total amount, the total amount that was repaid and then what remains outstanding, with the exception, I feel, of the three that now have court orders. So, take them out of the mix - because I think that has been dealt with on a separate level - there is $14,000. Then there are other issues here with regard to the excess constituency allowance.

My question is, when it came to light first almost everyone who had double billings or any errors wanted to have those fixed up immediately because there was no intention to do anything inappropriate. I think we need to write the people who still have double billings, who have decided not to do it, but in addition to that, if I was sitting there, sitting now as a past member and there were any questions left in the public about whether or not I owe money to government, I would like the opportunity to have that brought to my attention and to be able to determine some course of action of repayment on it, just based on the whole Auditor General’s report. Rather than write it off, we are making the assumption here that all of these people will not want to clear their names, will not want to do what is right in their particular situation. So I suggest at this point in time that anybody who we cannot determine that they do not owe us money, that we write them and we explain to them that based on all of these reports we cannot go any further with it, but there has been an overpayment in your case.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, thank you.

To Minister Burke’s point, not so much her recommendation but in comparing these discretionary overpayments to the double billings and the excess payments, the Auditor General addressed that in that early letter he wrote, which is at the back of this tab, July 22, when he talked about the inability to say with reasonable clarity that there were discretionary allowance overpayments. He says, "As I indicated to you in our discussion subsequent to receiving this letter, there were two areas in my review of constituency allowance overpayments where I could determine with ‘reasonable certainty’ the amount of overpayments made to individual Members – the overall excess payments" – those were the people who faced criminal charges, and secondly the double billings because they have the documentation. All of these other matters, like the discretionary and the inappropriate and so on, he did not feel he could pursue. He wrote those with the double billings, and of course almost all of them have subsequently paid, and then the excess payments, those have been dealt with through the courts. So that was really the distinction.

I should say that the information we have on the double billings was current as of October 26, I think, when we brought it. Since then, Mr. Ramsay has come forward and agreed to pay all. He owed us about $5,600, so he has provided us those dated cheques. So the outstanding balance is dropping rapidly on that.

With respect to Ms Burke’s recommendation, we could do that. All I was concerned about, and I think Ms Lambe as well, is we do not have the evidence to try to get legal judgments on this. It just does not exist. The notion of writing them to see if they want to clear their names or so on, there may be some merit in taking that approach. I just do not think we could pursue legal action.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: I guess one of the difficulties we are looking at really is we do not have a list of names. The Auditor General said there were, basically, forty-four members owing that were overpaid, he thought, $24,562 for excess discretionary amounts, but as you know, the Auditor General would not normally provide the working papers to us. So in order to even start to identify who might owe these amounts, then we would have to basically, I guess, hire another firm to review all the claims for that period and try to identify who actually – what makes up that $24,562, which is a big piece of work and certainly will cost a lot more than what is owed to the Treasury right now with the $24,000. So I guess that is one of the difficulties.

When Grant Thornton looked at it, it was kind of a side issue when they were looking at the two IEC minutes. They identified the amounts that they thought were discretionary overpayments for the years 2001-2002, 2002-2003, but in actual fact, when we met with the Auditor General’s staff, the numbers they had did not agree with those. Even between those two professional firms, basically, their numbers did not agree on what was owing, so that actually gave us pause for thought right there, that if they come up with different numbers then how are we possibly going to, in any way, with any certainty at all, be able to go out to someone and say you actually owe this money; you should pay it back. I guess that is where our difficulty lies.

Also, because there is so little documentation on file for a lot of the claims for that period, there is no indication that they were overpaid in their allowance, only that it seems that they were overpaid in the discretionary part of their allowance, which means that they did not need receipts for it. Whether that was because the receipts were missing or whether, in some cases, the AG had identified, it was just that when the claim was filled out it was put in the column that was titled discretionary when it should have been over in the other one, because in actual fact there were receipts. Sometimes, if there were not receipts, they thought, well, it must be discretionary because there were no receipts, but it could have been just that they were missing.

I guess, from our point of view, the Auditor General did not identify these people as having excess payments. They did not receive anything over and above their yearly allowance, constituency allowance. It is just a matter of whether they got too much in discretionary versus too little, I guess, under the receipt amount.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.

MS JONES: Just for clarification. First of all, on the double billings piece, as I indicate from the accounts receivable that you included in our binder, there are two particular members who have arranged to make the payments, and are doing that; there are four members who have not made any payments. Is that my understanding?

CLERK: Since this note was done, Mr. Ramsay has made arrangements, so he sent us post-dated cheques for all of it.

MS JONES: Okay. So we are still looking at three members under the double billings who have made no effort or no arrangements to repay that money.

CLERK: That is correct.

MS JONES: Okay.

The other three, as Ms Burke has already said, are being dealt with through the courts, so that will take its course.

I think we have to consider, you know, is there some way or means that we have to obtain the money from those three members. I guess I am wondering if there was any direct contact made with them, either in writing or in some other form, making the request and asking that it be honoured.

That would be my first question on that section.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: With Mr. Grimes we have had a number of back and forth letters; we are sending letters every two months, it seems, in each direction. Mr. Flight and Mr. Penney have never acknowledged it; they have never responded to any of the letters or telephone calls. We have heard nothing from them. Mr. Grimes, we are continuing to exchange letters but we are not getting any closer to receiving the money.

Ms Lambe and I have held some discussions with the Comptroller General’s office. Because of the Limitations Act difficulties, which we discussed at that previous meeting, and given the small sums, it is probably not worthwhile to attempt any court action. We can, however, write the Comptroller General, under the Financial Administration Act and ask him to put these individuals on what is called the intercept list or the arrears table. What that simply means is, if there was ever a government payment to go to these individuals - every government payment is first checked with this arrears table - if there is a debt to the Crown, then the cheque is either withheld or the Department of Finance, Comptroller General’s office, will contact the department to see if that cheque should be sent to the individual or if the monies have to be subtracted. That is probably as much as we can do, given the small sums and the Limitations Act difficulties, for those last three.

MR. SPEAKER: Do you have a further question Ms Jones?

MS JONES: I do, on the constituency piece of it.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

You have questions on this, Ms Michael?

MS MICHAEL: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I am just interested in what the Clerk just said with regard to if these people do receive any payments from government. I am pretty certain that the ones that are listed must be getting pensions from government. Would there be any way of notifying them, just as others are having…. Those, for example, I think - I could be wrong - who have been charged and found guilty in the courts had their severances affected. Couldn’t these people just be told: Well, you owe this to the government and this money is going to be taken from your pension in your next cheque. Why can’t that be done?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: I think the pensions are actually protected from this sort of intercepting.

MS MICHAEL: That is what I thought.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible).

CLERK: As Minister Kennedy says, there is a supplementary allowance for some members but not all. Those who have had a supplementary allowance, the Comptroller General was able to attach that, but the core pension is protected. Not just for MHAs; that is standard.

MS MICHAEL: But it could be determined whether or not these have supplementary allowances, and if they do that would be one way; it is only four people we are talking about.

CLERK: Yes, we could discuss with the Comptroller General and the Pensions Division if they could pursue it.

MS MICHAEL: I think that is one route to go. I will not say any more; I just speak to that.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to make clear, there are two separate things we are talking about here. Ms Lambe was talking about the discretionary allowance and the overpayment on that. The Auditor General went back in great detail and at the back end of it came up with, I think, a murky cloud. You could not really pin it down. I do not see spending any further money on that to come back with another murky cloud that might be a different shape. We are still no further ahead.

The second one here, the double payments, is a separate thing altogether. There was clear evidence that these people received money that they were not entitled to, and we know the amounts and we know the people.

I go back to the time when individuals in the Province owed school tax and all measures were taken, including putting them in for collection. I think that affects people’s credit rating and so on, like that, when they are put in for collection.

If that is the course we have to take, and if we cannot deduct from their pensions, then we put them in for collection at the credit bureau or whatever, because it is a bill owed to the government. It is as simple as that.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Let us revert first to the possible discretionary allowance overpayments. We are seeking direction from the Commission as to where we go with this particular item in light of the fact that we have already gone to an outside auditor and the Auditor General. It has been on the agenda now, I think, for at least two or three meetings and we have sought direction, have gone in that direction, but it seems to have ended up back here again with no more clarity.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Just further to my comments in response to Minister Burke’s recommendations, which did seem like we probably could do it, I guess Ms Lambe has corrected me; because Grant Thornton only did the two years and discretionary allowances went on for eight years, from 1996 to 2004. She is correct: the only names that might have had excess discretionary payments, that Grant Thornton identified, is only covering two of the eight years. So I guess Ms Lambe is right. We would have to engage someone to go over the records for those other six years to get the complete list of potential excess discretionary allowance recipients.

MR. SPEAKER: Members, keep in mind that we are talking about a total sum here of $24,000 versus the cost of trying to do something where there is no clarity that has been able to be provided, that we can actually have a foundation to go and say you owe it.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, I know that we are caught in a bit of a conundrum here, but I think we just have to make a decision. We have been dealing with this for so long now, and I have listened carefully to what Ms Lambe outlined. I have read over and over, as we all have, what the Auditor General has said to us, and we cannot send letters to people to say how much they owe if we do not have the proof of what they owe.

I think the public needs to know that we have gone inside this, and upside down, and every way we can, with everybody who can give us all the advice, including the Auditor General, around trying to get these payments. The proof has been there, both through these meetings and also through the statements of disclosure from the court cases, of what a mess the bookkeeping was in during the period in question that we are talking about.

I think we just have to make the decision. To spend money which would be way beyond $24,000 to get $24,000 back just does not make sense. That is what it would take. If we have to go to another firm to cover the years that Ms Lambe has referred to, then it is going to cost a lot more than $24,000. It just does not make sense to me. I think the public would understand that we have done everything possible in looking at this particular case, the case of the discretionary payments. We have been told, by every expert that we can get, that we cannot prove how much an individual – whether or not they owe, or whether or not there was an overpayment, et cetera. Not even an overpayment; it is the fact of getting money that perhaps there was not a receipt for but it was approved because of an explanation, whatever it is that happened.

I just do not see putting money into trying to get that $24,000; money that would be more, cost us even more, way more, than $24,000.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones, on this particular topic?

MS JONES: Yes.

Actually, I just want to follow up and, I guess, reiterate the comments that Ms Michael and Mr. Ridgley have made, that this has not been a new issue for us, and I think the will has been here by everyone on this committee to find a way to deal with this issue.

In light of the fact that the findings of the Auditor General, and in his own words there is reasonable certainty in terms of the amounts and whether they can attach names to it, provide proof as to whether people did not spend within the rules of discretionary allowances, or provide the proper receipts, claims, and so on, if he has been unable to identify, through his auditing process, and also through the independent auditor that we have had, I think it is very unlikely, even if we went out and spent the money to go back through the other six years, that we would have any more clear evidence than we already have on the two years that have been dealt with. So, it could indeed be an exercise that would be very costly to us and at the end of the day we still may not have any further evidence to proceed.

That being the case, it is unfortunate, very unfortunate, in light of the fact that where there have been some clear discrepancies identified, and overpayments identified, that people have had to make those payments and repay that money, but in cases where we have been unable to identify individuals, unable to provide proof, I think that we have to look at what our options are and I think the options are very clear right now. In trying to recover this $24,000 we would probably spend three times that amount and at the end of the day still not have the evidence that we need to be able to recover that amount of money.

So, I would support the views expressed by Ms Michael and Mr. Ridgley that all options have been looked at. We have asked for expert advice; we received it. Based on what we have been given, we would have to move forward to look at how we take this off the books in one form or another and I do not know what the process of doing that is.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I just think though, as members of the Management Commission, and just knowing how the public feels about what has happened with the finances of this House for many years and all the work that we have gone through that without any further study, with the AG report plus with the Grant Thornton report, I think that we need to make some efforts to collect what we see now, in black and white, as to what may have been overpaid.

I see nothing wrong with individuals who have been named in that report having an opportunity to discuss that issue with the appropriate people. Some people may actually want, believe it or not, to clear their names and may understand the issue, may have that background. Knowing that legally they may not have to pay it, we may not be able to pursue it, but I just do not see why we have that information and we do not at least follow up on it.

AN HON. MEMBER: We do not have the names.

MS BURKE: Didn’t we see a list in the Grant Thornton report?

MR. SPEAKER: Do we have the names in the way of clarity -

CLERK: We have it for two years.

MR. SPEAKER: We have it for two years and not going back to the -

MS BURKE: Yes, in the Grant Thornton report. Well, that is what we have, and I do not think we should ignore it.

MR. SPEAKER: Your suggestion is, the names that we have for the two years, that we approach them and ask that they clear their account since it is unclear whether they received overpayment or not.

MS BURKE: If we do not have it and we cannot get it, but for what we do have, that is like saying there may be other stuff we do not know, but that does not mean we ignore what we do know. That is my point.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.

MS JONES: I have a question for clarification. I understood that the information provided in the Grant Thornton report could not be substantiated by evidence in terms of those cases. Now, maybe I am missing something. I think there was a list of names. There was a list of discretionary spending. In some cases, there might not have been the proper paperwork. I do not think anyone went over what they were originally allocated within their budgets.

It is my understanding that the evidence was not there to substantiate this in any factual manner, and I always understood that was the hesitant factor that we were up against. If that is not clear, I would like for someone to give me some clarification because I understand from Ms Burke that we have all the evidence, we have all the facts, why not go look for the money? That was never my interpretation.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I understand that we may not be able to proceed legally based on everything we are saying here, but what I am saying is I feel that as long as we have that information that is contained in the Grant Thornton report that we should approach the people who we feel may owe money and have a discussion with them on it. We can do that. At least we can come back say, you know what, maybe some of them want to clear their name on this. Maybe some want to clear this up and want to pay it back; others may not.

I think that we have it there and we know that we do not have the legal recourse, I do not feel like spending more money on it right now, but I do not see why we drop it if we do have some information here. The individual members may want to have a look at it and they may want to clear their names and get it off the books and address it. All I am saying is let’s address –

MS JONES: Is there an allegation because you are talking about people clearing their names? I am not even sure that there is any allegation of inappropriate spending on behalf of these individuals.

MS BURKE: I am not even saying that. I am saying let’s approach them, let’s lay it out to them and let’s have a discussion with them.

MS JONES: What are we laying out? This is (inaudible) -

MS BURKE: What is in the Grant Thornton report is what we are laying out.

MR. SPEAKER: Hang on now. Ms Burke, complete your comment.

MS BURKE: All I am saying is that, I think, based on that report and based on the fact that we are here as Management Commission members to do what is right, that I do not feel like sweeping it under the mat and saying: Well, we do not have enough legal evidence so we cannot do it. Maybe some of the people who are involved would like to look at that information and make some payments back to us. That is all I am saying.

Now, if they all come back and say: No, I do not want anything to do with it. I am not interested in that; leave it there. Well, fair enough, but I just do not see it is our job to drop it that is all I am saying.

MR. SPEAKER: Maybe before I recognize anybody else, the Clerk might want to bring some clarity here to, number one, have the names been identified, have the amounts been identified, and just bring that to us and for the period of time that it has been. We need to make a motion here in order to conclude this and give us some direction as to where we go and just bring some clarity to where we are, what we can do, and then I will recognize Ms Michael and Mr. Osborne.

CLERK: Yes, the Grant Thornton report, if you remember, it started – it was not really looking at excess discretionary allowances. There were two vague IEC minutes, and Chief Justice Green said do a forensic audit of IEC minutes, accounts, and so on to see if what was intended in those minutes was implemented. These were those vague IEC minutes which talked about increasing members’ discretionary allowance and so on but never put a dollar figure. It started with reviewing the minutes in Green’s report.

Grant Thornton reviewed the expenditures to members through the Comptroller General’s system, through FMS, and some of the documentation to try to find any common elements to see if indeed the minutes had been implemented. Their assumption was if these were implemented, they would have been universally applied and you would see common percentages or common dollar figures disbursed to all members; so that was their theory.

Looking at the discretionary allowance in those years - I guess it was at $4,800 and HST was always assumed to be on top of that, which would be $5,520 at the 15 per cent - they found a number of names who received more than $5,500 and, in looking at the files, they could not find evidence to support that those were receipted expenses. They qualified their findings, but they did have a list of names, perhaps six or eight per year, who, it appeared, with some qualifications, had received more than $5,500 in a given fiscal year which looked like there was a discretionary allowance payment. So, there is a list of names in the Grant Thornton report.

The Auditor General though, at our request, did look at them and he had different figures for some of them. Now, these were not, I suppose, wholesale changes, but a number of the individual names and dollar figures the Auditor General disputed. His numbers were different. They were issues such as Ms Lambe said. Even though there was no receipt there, because it was a precise dollar figure it did not look like a discretionary allowance payment. If it was not a round $100 figure, if it was $13.92, even though there were no receipts it did not seem logical to think of that as a discretionary allowance payment. Those were the sort of adjustments the Auditor General made.

In summary, Mr. Speaker, we do have a list of names from the Grant Thornton report; it is not rock solid evidence is the problem.

If I could on one other point – and I take Minister Burke’s concerns here and I think all Commission members share it; you do not want to think someone is "getting away with something". If we consider the former members who faced criminal charges and the civil action that is associated with those – I compared some of them this morning - you will remember Mr. Walsh was noted by the Auditor General as having $298,000 in excess payments, but the negotiated settlement, as part of the criminal proceedings, he has agreed to repay $144,000. Mr. Byrne was noted by the Auditor General to have overpayments of $467,000, but the settlement that was ultimately arrived at was $100,000-and-something.

So, even in those circumstances, the hard evidence was not there and the Crown has agreed to much less sums on only the matters they can categorically prove. So, these things happen. They are regrettable. The AG numbers may well have been right for those members, but the Crown could not prove it so a lesser amount has been negotiated.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: I think it was Ms Jones.

MS JONES: I just had a quick look at the Grant Thornton review and I just realized that my name is on the list. I had received $100 more in one year than, I guess, I was entitled to, but in the following year I received $1,000 less than I was entitled to.

I do not know how you balance some of these things out, but in light of that I think I will withdraw from the debate at the table now that I have realized that. In just a quick review - and I might want to encourage other members to have a quick review - there are a lot of notes by the comments that have been done by the administrators at the table that suggest there are errors in those calculations. Even if we were to approach those individuals, you need to be aware of the fact that, internally, they have already found errors in the information provided by Grant Thornton. The other thing you need to consider is that a number of the individuals on that list were underpaid in one year and overpaid by small amounts of money, even as low $63, in other years. So, you might need to consider how you balance out that particular aspect of it as well.

Outside of that, I will withdraw any comment on the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: I recognize Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: The other aspect here, I think, is we all understand the bookkeeping and the type of bookkeeping that was done through those years. Oftentimes, whether it was done appropriately or inappropriately, if a sum was to be claimed, and either a receipt was not found or maybe, for other reasons, there were amounts put in columns where the amounts did not belong, they belonged on a claim but may not have belonged in the discretionary amount and may have belonged somewhere else. Who knows why these things were done, but they were. I mean, I have absolutely no faith in the amounts that were in that discretionary column for a variety of reasons.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: I do not know if you recall but there was a subcommittee set up early on, when we were starting to look at this. Ms Marshall was one of the members. So myself and Ms Marshall did sit down and as a result of our review of the information that we had, and without trying to spend too much time at it, I guess, but just to try to get some idea if we had any confidence in the numbers. We did find, and I think you noted that we have comments in the notes, and they were made from the review that myself and Ms Marshall did of the information that we could find.

In a lot of cases, you mentioned that you were overpaid one year and underpaid the next year. What seemed to have happened is in the March month, a lot of claims that should have been paid in March were paid in April in the new fiscal year and charged to the new fiscal year when they should be charged to the old year. I know that for certain because when I came here in May of 2006, I actually went back to the beginning of April and we did every single member’s claim to make sure it was okay. What I did find out was that there were quite a significant number of claims processed in April. As you know, claims that come in, in April, you know if they relate to the prior year can be charged back but they were not for the most part. I know from the review that we did, what the information that Grant Thornton had, and in a lot of cases it was not charged to the right year. If you see somewhere it is over one year and under the next year, I would say there is a very good chance that that is the reason why.

When Grant Thornton was doing that review, as Mr. MacKenzie said, he really was not focused on discretionary amounts; they were focusing on the minutes and trying to identify any special payment over and above what was approved at the time. These amounts came to them because they were round amounts and they seemed to be: well, was there a possibility that they increased their discretionary amount over and above what had been approved? That was the reason that they identified in their report.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Ms Lambe.

Mr. Ridgley, any final comment on this particular matter right now?

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Speaker, I think all people expect is our best effort, and if we have done that for these two years, I would just follow up with Ms Burke’s comment and send a letter to those who have been identified by Grant Thornton, and say: look, here is the figure we came up with, give these people over the next, even if it is two years, an opportunity to come in and put their cards on the table and say, okay, here is what I have, here is what your records show and clear this thing up. Not spend any more money on the other years. I mean, what is the point of that? Again, back to the double billings, proceed with collection on those and put it to bed.

MR. SPEAKER: The Chair is looking for direction. Is that the direction that the Commission wishes to proceed in, to contact - what I am hearing is to contact the names that we have for the period of time that has been identified here and ask those individual members to come forward and see if they have documentations to clear up this misunderstanding and also to make an effort by whatever collection means that is at our disposal to collect the double billings owed by members that have been identified in the information provided. Is that the direction that I am hearing? If not - I see two hands.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just to be clear, Mr. Speaker, because I do not think you said it in your summary. It is my understanding that if we agree to go ahead and contact all these MHAs, some of whom are former, some of whom are not former and some of whom are at this table, and there is more than Ms Jones, that after making that effort we understand we have no legal recourse because I would be opposed to putting money into trying to collect the amount of money we are talking about. So as long as we understand that if we do what Ms Burke is suggesting, that is what we do. If people come forward, fine, but because we have no legal basis for that we will not be able to take further action, as long as that is clear.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS MICHAEL: With regard to this list of the discretionary spending, I am talking about only.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I have two comments. One is with regard to the collections, or what other efforts we could make for the people who owe on the double billings. I would like for us to indicate that is for the people who are not presently in repayment schedules because it is their -

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MS BURKE: So it is really limited. The three is –

MR. SPEAKER: So you are talking about three individuals.

MS BURKE: Graham Flight, a small amount, Roger Grimes and Melvin Penney. The other thing is, with regard to what Ms Michael just said, the only thing I would say there is that we look at how we attempt to collect the money as identified there. I do not think that we necessarily close off legal recourse at this time because we do not know what could be revealed down the road or what we may have access to. So, right now it appears that we may not, and I agree not to spend more money at it, but if there are other things that come to light that give us more opportunity to pursue some of these issues we should.

MR. SPEAKER: My understanding from Ms Michael’s comments is that we would not do anything to spend extra money in this direction that we are getting this morning.

MS BURKE: No.

MR. SPEAKER: Final commentary, Ms Jones.

MS JONES: I just have a question, actually, for clarification.

I know we are going after people who might have been overpaid their $5,500 in that particular year. What about people who were underpaid? Are we protected if they come after us looking for the money that they did not receive? I am just wondering how that works, because it was discretionary. It did not require any receipt for claim and it was an entitlement of the member based on the rules of the day. I just need clarification before we proceed, that these individuals cannot come after us for monies that they may not have received.

MR. SPEAKER: So, are you referring to what Ms Lambe might have suggested, that one year carried over to the next -

MS JONES: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: - and what you see charged off as an excess in one year may very well have been part of the former year or the proceeding year?

MS JONES: Yes. Well, there is obviously, from the list, indications that people did not receive the maximum amount of their discretionary in any particular year. We know how discretionary allowances were administered under the rules. I just want clarification that these individuals cannot come back and say you now owe us money. I just want to make sure that we are protected.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. Hopefully, that will be done in the correspondence that you make with the individual clarification.

Ms Burke, the final, final comment.

MS BURKE: My final comment is, if somebody identifies that they are in a conflict of interest and they are withdrawing from a debate, that they should not use their position at this table to promote their own self interest. Now if you withdraw from a debate because of conflict of interest, you do.

That is my final comment.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

Does the Clerk need any further direction? Because the Clerk needs to write this up and bring it back in a way that is clearly what is being said here and what the direction is given the Clerk?

CLERK: If I could, perhaps the minute will be something like: the Commission directed the Clerk to write the individuals identified in the Grant Thornton report seeking clarification to see if they have additional documentation and so on around these excess, or apparently excess discretionary amounts. As has been said around here, it has to be sort of general. It is not an allegation. It is just saying: Can you shed any light on these matters? We can do it that way.

With respect to the double billing, we are almost to the end. As I say, those three individuals left and that was really a sideline to the excess discretionary allowance discussion. I am not quite sure what the minute would be on double billings, or even if one is needed.

MR. SPEAKER: My understanding, the direction was to use whatever direction is afforded to the Commission in collections to retrieve the double billings that has been clearly identified by the Auditor General and that has been made known and made public here in our minutes. If that means putting it through a collection agency, if that means stopping somebody from getting their licence, if that means accessing part of somebody’s pension, those are the routes that will be gone down in order to collect the monies that are owed to the Crown, the same as it was for any other collection when people owe money.

CLERK: So the minute would be something like: the Commission directed the Clerk to take all reasonable steps to recover the double billings.

MR. SPEAKER: To recover, yes, my understanding.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I would like the record to show that I took no part in this discussion or cast any vote.

MR. SPEAKER: Duly noted.

I think that is clear, we can move from that particular item to be brought back for a further discussion.

The next item would be item 5, and this is the O’Neill review into the right for Mr. March to be heard. When Chief Justice O’Neill was selected by the Commission to carry out this review Mr. Justice O’Neill involved the services of Mr. Toby MacDonald, and when the Chief Justice was first approached he indicated that he could not start his work until October 1. The scope of work, I think the Commission had understood, would be done within two months, from October 1 to November 30, and we had expected to receive invoices that would have covered this particular time frame. At the end, when we received the invoices, there is an amount of work that was carried out pre-October 1 and post November 30. The amount owing for those particular two invoices, outside of those two dates, is for a total of $69,400. The explanation is duly noted in the briefing note. If there are further questions or commentary that is needed here we will certainly provide whatever we can.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

Yes, I have a question for the Clerk. In bullet 4 of the briefing note we are told that the outstanding invoices relate to work performed outside of the two month contract period, and that is the $69,000 you are talking about. Prior to October 1, Justice O’Neill and Mr. MacDonald conducted preparatory research to enable them to begin the review on October 1.

My question is - I mean, they did notify the Clerk with regard to not being able to start until October 1, but did they at that time ask permission to go ahead and do preparatory work to the date they said they were going to do the review? Because, to me, the preparatory research would have been part of the review. So I am really confused that they did work prior to October 1, having notified the Clerk that they were not going to start until October 1. Did they ask for permission to do this work?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, we gave the materials - all of the Hansards, all of those other materials around it - to Justice O’Neill some time in July or August. So it was not so much a case of asking permission. I suppose he had the materials and, even though he had other commitments and said he could not officially start until the first, he was reading through it and I guess planning out how he would approach the review. So it was not so much a case of permission, but he did have the materials so I guess he just started a little early.

I suppose one could argue this preparatory work had to be done at some point. Whether it was pre or post the first, he still had to plan out how he would conduct the review.

MR. SPEAKER: Probably the reason why it went beyond November 30 is the Commission did not afford Mr. March’s legal counsel until, I think, November 18. Yes, it was at a meeting of November 18 that the Commission approved funding. I think it was for $25,000 if I remember correctly.

CLERK: Twenty.

MR. SPEAKER: Twenty thousand dollars for Mr. March to access legal counsel, hence the reason why that was carried forward.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, I have no problem with that part. I think the end is understandable. We know when that approval happened, we know how late it was before Mr. March presented and I think it was logical that the review would have to be extended a bit before they got the report out. I think that probably was reported by Mr. O’Neill, that because of the lateness, that they would be a little bit late in doing the final report.

I really have a problem with the fact that a contract was struck which established October 1 as the beginning point of the review and yet, in actual fact, he started the review prior to October 1, because doing the preparatory work was part of the review. I find it very problematic, actually. I am not saying we do not pay it - I do not know, maybe I might say that. I guess there was some kind of – it was not oral, but by nature of giving the documents to Mr. O’Neill before October 1, in some ways that was a permission given to go ahead and start the review. I guess I would be questioning that practice, that if the review was not starting until October 1, why did he receive the materials? I think that was, in the sense, a green light. So we cannot blame him in that sense, but I find it very problematic.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, Ms Michael might be right. We perhaps could have waited until the official contract date. We did not really think through, I guess, what the consequences would be. So we gave him all the materials. He had his other commitments, whatever they were, we did not question them, so then he could not start until the first. I suppose, naturally, he started to read them and kept track of his hours.

Again, whatever work he did, he probably would have had to do that same work within the October 1-November 30 period because he would still have to have done the preparatory work, it was just a matter of when he did it.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.

MS JONES: Obviously, this is the whole issue around Fraser March again. We have spent a lot of money as a Commission on this, and unfairly in my opinion, because I think it was government’s responsibility to have given this individual a fair hearing when he was fired and give him an opportunity to have his case heard. As a result of it, today, we are being asked to spend more money, bringing us up to about $267,000 as a Commission. That is notwithstanding the amount of monies that we have already paid out for Mr. March to have legal counsel.

I ask the Clerk to give us that figure now so we have a total on what this particular case has cost so far.

CLERK: That is in the list there. On the second page, you will see: Fees for Legal Counsel for Fraser March.

MS JONES: So that was the $17,893?

CLERK: That is it.

MS JONES: So, already we are up to nearly $270,000 in payments for allowing Mr. March the opportunity to have a fair hearing which I never felt it was our place, as the Management Commission, in the first place. I always felt it was the responsibility of government either through Executive Council or the Department of Justice to deal with this issue. Unfortunately, in making these payments we have put ourselves in a position where we could end up with another case very similar down the road in the case of Ms Neville, who was also just fired from her position and not given an opportunity to be heard by government or Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

I am very hesitant about spending any money on this case right from the beginning, and I am more than hesitant about spending money for a contracted period that we did not enter into an agreement with. I think this has gotten a little bit ridiculous. I think it should have never been our responsibility in the first place, but yet it looks like we are the ones that have been on the hook for the full bill.

MR. SPEAKER: As all members know, the Commission engaged Justice O’Neill and it was done by a directive from the Commission. Whether we viewed it as individual members or not, it was done by the Commission. Anyway, that debate has already taken place.

I do not know if the Clerk wants to make further commentary before I ask for a motion?

CLERK: Well, just in terms of these outstanding invoices, the resolution in the House did speak to this two-month window, so we wrote the contract on it. Had this just been invoice for legal fees, if there is no set contractual period for someone to conduct a review and inquiry, the hours spent are the hours spent – I mean, that is what the hours are put in. It is comparable, I guess, to public inquiries, and we have all seen those. You hope that it will be done within a certain period of time, within a certain budget, but then the hours expand, the work expands, and you really do not have a lot of options short of stopping the review in its tracks. To move in and say you cannot incur anymore costs and so on, you are probably being charged with interfering or undercutting the review itself. So, once these wheels start, public inquiries and this sort of review, it is very hard to restrict the effort of the commissioner or the investigator.

MR. SPEAKER: So the recommended minute there - and it can be done either to the negative or positive - I just put forward: The Commission either approves or does not approve payment of invoices totalling $69,400 related to work conducted on the O’Neill Review for the period pre-October 1, 2009 and post-November 30, 2009.

Does somebody want to make that a motion, either in the negative or positive?

Mr. Kennedy.

MR. KENNEDY: I make a motion that we pay the invoice.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that we approve this particular invoice.

Can somebody second that motion?

Seconded by Ms Burke.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We will do the next item on the agenda under Tab 6 and then we will take a fifteen minute break to give members an opportunity not only to refresh themselves but probably to warm themselves in light of the conditions here this morning in the House of Assembly.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Yes, we will do this next item and we will take a break, possibly. This is a fairly detailed debate we will probably have and it is regarding the departmental constituency assistants.

I guess the only point I would like to make: I am wondering if we could defer this to another time on the simple fact right now that - unless there is something happened that I am not aware of - this group of people have not even been consulted or spoken to and we are here going to discuss their work situations and what is best for them? Unless there has been consultation, I am going to suggest that we ask that there be a consultation. There is more than one way to proceed here and I just do not like the fact that this discussing their jobs and benefits that they are entitled to without ever them having some opportunity to at least give some opinions on it.

So I make a motion that we defer this to another meeting after there has been consultation with the constituency assistants.

AN HON. MEMBER: Seconded.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded.

Is there commentary before we decide to go that route?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, just a question. I am just wondering, Ms Burke, who are you meaning to do the consultation? Do you mean that it is consultation that will be done by the Clerk or is it consultation that ministers will be asked to do with the constituency assistants? How do you see it happening?

MS BURKE: I thought it would happen from the Clerk’s Office, from the House generally, as opposed to we are the employer almost and they work with us, I do not think that would be appropriate, I suppose. Just some opinions as to maybe they see issues here, maybe there are benefits they do not want to give up, maybe there are benefits others would like to receive, or maybe they see no benefit to this at all. It is just the fact that we do not have their opinions.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Then, I think, Mr. Speaker, that the consultation just should not be with the departmental constituency assistants but with all CAs.

MR. SPEAKER: I totally agree, and I think that was Ms Burke’s intent. Some of the options here are not necessarily to bring one group down, you might be able to bring the other group up or there might be something in the middle where everybody can be treated fairly here because obviously, right now, everybody is not being treated fairly.

So, I will not make any further commentary, if we are going to bring it back, let’s bring it back and do due diligence at that time.

Is that the wish of the Commission to allow that process to happen and bring it back at another time when everybody can be fully engaged?

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The Clerk.

CLERK: We are currently having some audio problems, so maybe this would be a good time for the break.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. The Commission will take a brief recess now and we will come back at 10:45 a.m.

Recess

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Order, please!

The next item on the agenda will be under Tab 7, and this will lead us into the recommendations by the Members’ Compensation Review Committee that were brought forward. We have already dealt with part of those recommendations. Some of them were dealt with by legislation in the House of Assembly, but for the proposed rules amendments there is a section of information there on the Commission’s commentary when the Management Compensation Review Committee appeared before the Commission. That was there for information purposes only, so members have had an opportunity to read all of Tab 7. Then we will move into section Tab 8 of our binder and we will look at the proposed rule amendments. The proposed rule amendments is for allowances with the House in session, the House not in session, and then we will proceed on to some recommendations regarding travel and severance pay.

I am going to ask the Clerk if he would lead us in a structured way into those particular rule changes. Then we can vote on them, or make recommendations as we go by to have them brought back to another meeting as part of Chief Justice Green’s report of accepting a change in rules.

I pass that on to the Clerk and we will receive commentary after.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This first recommendation from the Members’ Compensation Review Committee addresses this issue of staying overnight when you are travelling to and from the Capital region, and requiring the Speaker’s authorization to do that. This was brought to the Members’ Compensation Review Committee’s attention.

Currently, an MHA, while they are travelling, can stay overnight but they have to get prior approval from you, or, if that is not possible, inform you immediately afterward. The Members’ Compensation Review Committee looked at this. They agreed that that seemed unnecessary, and their recommendation stated an MHA whose district is in excess of four hours driving time from the Capital region by the most direct route shall be entitled to one night accommodation while en route to his or her district while the House is in session.

Subsequently, when the Management Commission met the Members’ Compensation Review Committee, the issue of: What about the House not in session, and what about travelling to the Capital region as well as from the Capital region? Because the Members’ Compensation Review Committee highlighted the issue of safety.

So, in fact, following the discussion at the Commission meeting of November 18 and the exchange of correspondence between you and Mr. O’Neill, the Chair, the Members’ Compensation Committee agreed that if indeed it is a matter of safety, the one night accommodation should apply going either direction, to or from the Capital region, and applies whether the House is in session or not in session. The Hansard and the correspondence from Mr. O’Neill backed that up.

It did not seem to be a contentious matter with them, and all that we are doing here is allowing members to stay – that is, certain members to stay - without phoning the Speaker. The possibility of phoning the Speaker because of weather conditions, fatigue or so on, still exists for all members. So, even if you are only coming from a few miles away, conceivably if something happened, you still have the right to phone the Speaker and say: I have to stay over for a night.

The one thing we have done with the proposed rule amendments is we have struggled with the Members’ Compensation Review Committee recommendation of four hours driving time. That is an imprecise way of identifying who should do this. It is difficult for members, it is difficult for us in administering claims, and undoubtedly the auditors would find some issue in the way we had interpreted it. So we looked at distance; but distance, like travelling time, has issues as well: is it secondary roads, is it the Trans-Canada, do the weather conditions impact, and so on and so forth.

As an alternative, we proposed a list of districts; and these districts themselves, in trying to keep with the spirit or the principle of the four hours, you could have certain debates. For instance, we felt Grand Bank was sufficiently far, when you look to the very furthest end of the District of Grand Bank, that it would be outside of that four hour range, whereas Burin-Marystown would be within the range. We agree that is a somewhat arbitrary decision. Gander, on the Trans-Canada, we did not include, but Bonavista North we did.

So it is difficult to do it this way, and there is a certain arbitrariness, I suppose, to it, but over it all anyone can stay overnight under the existing provision of phoning the Speaker. So, if the matter came up, they could still phone the Speaker.

There are a couple of typos here. Ms Michael found one and the Speaker found another couple. I apologize for those; but, because this is a rule amendment, this has to come back to the Commission a second time, so we will clean them up when they come back. Then, of course, the Office of Legislative Counsel has final authority over the wording to be published in the Newfoundland and Labrador Gazette.

At any rate, Mr. Speaker, that is it. Essentially, with the approval of the Members’ Compensation Review Committee, the application of this would provide for overnight accommodations, both directions, to and from the Capital region, whether the House is in session or not in session.

MR. SPEAKER: Naturally, it will be in relationship to the number of trips that you would be allowed to take, but those would not be counted for that number of trips.

We thought it was cumbersome, and I did not see any reason that somebody from Labrador would have to try to get in contact with me or the Clerk to get authorization to stay overnight. I would not have refused, anyway, if they had called. By the same token we are not eliminating, by putting forward the suggested districts here, anybody else. If the Member for Bellevue gets as far as Whitbourne and it is a bad night, we are not saying that you must drive on. You can check into Whitbourne, but you will follow the process that is already in place, because you are not an identified district, by getting in contact with the Speaker or the Clerk, or, if not, as soon as you reasonably can the following day.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: (Inaudible) comments that it is somewhat arbitrary to select the districts; but, in fairness to saying that, as you are saying, the rule exists that anyone can use it if there is an emergency and they need it. I would think that since the rules have been in place, you probably have not even heard from an MHA outside any of these districts who needed that emergency accommodation that night. So, it is there for when it is needed but it is practical the way it is set up as well.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones, did you have commentary?

MS JONES: I just wanted to say that I support the changes and the amendments, because it has been a bit of an inconvenience over the last couple of years and I have run into difficulties several times in getting to my district, both by road and by air, where I have had to have overnight accommodations; and trying to track down the Speaker, although you are not that difficult to get a hold of most days, with your BlackBerry, still, it is a process that you do not want to have to go through all the time to get permission.

The only question I have is with regard to the private accommodation allowances and the daily meal allowances. They are standard to what already existed within our policy, are they?

CLERK: Yes.

MS JONES: Okay.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

I guess I should read this into the record. Do members feel that I should read all those changes? They are going to be given to every member. They are available on the Web site. I seek members’ guidance here. Do I need to reread them?

I hear that I do not, and that is fine. People can, if they want to, access the information. The only changes there are a couple in (g) and (t), the districts are not named properly, but that will be corrected, as the Clerk said.

That being said, we are open for a motion to accept the suggested allowances that are being provided here, when a claim is made. I do not see anything definitive but, without reading it, would somebody make a motion that we accept this particular rule as written?

Moved by Ms Michael; seconded by Mr. Ridgley.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda, again dealing with rules, refers to secondary residences. I ask the Clerk to lead us into this one as well.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This one is well known, I think, to all members. The regime in the current rules for secondary residence reimbursement costs has been contentious since it came in. Some members get as low as $10 a night under the current pro-rated scheme; ministers get the $53 a night. As the note says, and as the Members’ Compensation Review Committee report commented, this issue generated a great deal of discussion with MHAs and staff of the House when they were looking at it. They recommended that the secondary residence regime be fixed at the flat $53 a night without receipts, as is provided to ministers, and was formerly, I think, the practice before this pro-rated amount came in under Green.

We discussed this with the Members’ Compensation Review Committee at the November 18 meeting. The only contentious matter was, their recommendation focused on a secondary residence in the Capital region whereas there was at least one member, I believe, and there could be more, who maintained a secondary residence in the district. We discussed that with Mr. O’Neill at the Management Commission meeting and he agreed, wherever secondary residence is currently permitted, Capital region or district, that he would see that being applied to both places.

If the Commission does approve this regime of a flat $53, we do not believe we can manage two parallel reimbursement regimes for a secondary residence and we would have to rescind the provisions of the rules that currently apply. We discussed that, I think, or I mentioned that in one of the memos that I provided to the Commission.

There is also a matter which I do not think we can address right now, because the MCRC said $53 so the Commission does not have the authority to exceed that maximum, but Minister Burke raised a point during our earlier discussions on November 18. From the staff perspective, if this is approved, we assume that a certain number of members will switch to secondary accommodations. They will rent apartments and so on, and leave hotels. There will be a cost saving to the Treasury because currently we are paying 100 per cent. A hotel night in St. John’s could be $150 as opposed to $53.

Minister Burke’s point about the number of nights members actually spend in the capital, multiplied by $53, is probably not going to cover the annual cost of an apartment. We cannot exceed the $53 now, but I think - Minister Burke, I cannot remember if you suggested this at the meeting but this is probably something that we as staff should review and in three months, or six months, come back because I am not sure that members are going to leave hotels for the $53. We may find we are not getting the savings we would hope the $53 would predict.

Anyway, it is a relatively straightforward one, Mr. Speaker. So I guess that is – oh, I should mention one more point. The final bullet in the note, at the very first meeting of the Management Commission back in August, 2007 - that was even before the election, because you will remember the act came into force June 14, perhaps, 2007. So, a Management Commission meeting was held even before the October election. Ms Lambe and her staff had found some errors, omissions and discrepancies in the rules as written by Chief Justice Green’s Commission.

We spoke to the executive secretary of the Review Commission, Chief Justice Green’s Commission, who recommended that we issue directives to read the rules as if these words existed in them. That is fine, and that has served us for two years. However, since we need to amend these very rules to put into effect this flat $53 rate, we also took the opportunity to add the wording that was in those two directives and then we would ultimately repeal the directives so they no longer exist because the wording is entered right in the rules.

That is it, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I just want to build on what the Clerk just said about what I had recommended in November, and I know we have to accept – or not accept, modify or whatever - what is in the report. I am not suggesting we change the $53, but I guess my comment is that I think we need to continue to collect some statistics on it for the next review because there is a tipping point where it becomes cost effective that people can be able to get private accommodations, or mortgages or rent, whatever, versus the hotels, which are more expensive. I do not think $53 provides that tipping point, but I still think there is a number out there – and I will say $75, whatever it could be – that would save money for the government Treasury and yet would make it worthwhile for someone to have private accommodations.

So I think we can track that a bit. I am not saying that we make the change, but at least for the next review they can take it and they can look at it and do whatever with it. They can reject it if they want, but I think the federal government changed their private accommodations to $75 a number of years back and that really cut back on people using hotels. So there was a cost saving there. There is a number there that we probably need to be more aware of, just based on the rental market today and whatever.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Ms Jones.

MS JONES: Yes, I agree with Ms Burke’s comments, because I think if you – right now if you have an option, you are going to take the option which is not going to be any out of pocket money for you. That is what most people are going to choose. That means we are going to continue to pay higher amounts for hotels, and hotels are not getting cheaper. They are going to get more expensive.

I was hoping that through this review we would have been able to come to some kind of an agreement which would allow people to hold secondary residence and not be out of pocket too much money. I do not necessarily have a problem with the $53 portion, but I know in my own case, if you look at my prorated expenses, it exceeds $53. So under the new rules, I will actually lose money every day in addition to what I am already losing by maintaining a secondary residence. So you could foreseeably have more people going to the hotel concept because – I am just talking about my particular situation, and it would make more sense for me to do that as opposed to continue to be out money in order to be in the city to do my job. So although it is a plan, it is looking at trying to treat everybody the same, but it is not reflective of the reality that we face in trying to do our jobs, live in one part of the Province, work in another part, and try and be somewhat fiscally conservative about the amount of money that we are spending in accommodations for forty-eight members.

I would agree to probably ask the review commission to look at some other options and what they might be able to introduce to us. I know Ms Burke mentioned what the feds do now. I am not sure what is done in other jurisdictions in terms of looking after these kinds of expenses but that might be worth looking at as well. I certainly see ways that we could save money here as opposed to end up costing ourselves more money at the end of the day.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I have no issue, Mr. Speaker, with anything stated so far. I am just wondering though if the Clerk could refresh my memory on what paragraph two and three – the three night trip piece. I do not have the rules in front of me.

MR. SPEAKER: Paragraph 2(b) for a maximum of three nights.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: No, the action required. Actually, you have – it is under paragraph two.

MR. SPEAKER: In the directives, Clerk.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: It talks about when the House is in session and then it talks about the fifty night piece and then there are two references here, in two and three, to the three nights during a trip. I was just wondering - I am not familiar with the rules on the three-night piece.

CLERK: I think I will defer to Ms Lambe, she is the rule expert.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: Yes, that is the rule that applies to someone who has a permanent residence in the Capital region and their district is outside the Capital region. So basically what they are saying, on your trips to the Capital region the three nights during a trip is included here. Any other nights that you stay in your district beyond the three nights has to come from your intra-constituency allowance. So basically, because you are living in the capital and not in your district there is a restriction on how many nights you can stay there. That is not included I should say, I guess, in your intra-constituency amount. So for any three nights that you are there on a trip it is allocated to, like the House is not in session or House in session, depending on the time. The rest is taken from your block funding from your intra-constituency allowance.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.

MS JONES: So there is no strict rule that says you have to restrict each trip to three days but you have to restrict how you claim your money under the different sections of your allowances.

MS LAMBE: Exactly.

MS JONES: Okay. What happens in a case where you actually live in your district and you are coming to the city for business and it is outside of the House in session period and you are going to be here four nights as opposed to the three nights? How do you claim that additional night?

MS LAMBE: That rule does not apply in that case. If it is House in session, of course you can stay seven nights.

MS JONES: Yes.

MS LAMBE: If it is House not in session, which I guess it has to be one or the other, than basically you are restricted by your fifty nights.

MS JONES: Okay, but it can be more than three nights consecutively?

MS LAMBE: It can be more than three nights.

MS JONES: Okay.

MS LAMBE: You can have more than three nights consecutively in your district. It is just that after three nights it comes from your intra-constituency allowance.

MS JONES: Okay.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

Just for clarification, the rule 32(2)(b) has just been amended to reflect the other decision. So there is no change, and this was always in place. This was a rule but it is just that figures had been changed to match the other decision about the $53 per night.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Just a final point, if it is final, to carry on from Minister Burke and Ms Jones and so on. I know members are sensitive to these issues and the Commission is sensitive to the public perspective on these matters. I thought I might point out that the Members’ Compensation Review Committee, in looking at this matter, actually quoted Green on not suffering personal sacrifice. In the Members’ Compensation Review Committee report they quote the Green report where he says, "In incurring legitimate expenses in carrying out public functions, the MHA should not be expected to do so at personal financial sacrifice." Green has said that and the Members’ Compensation Review Committee. When we revisit this, I mean it is a principle that we should keep in mind even though I know members are very sensitive to these matters.

MR. SPEAKER: Not seeing any further commentary, a motion is in order to accept the recommendations regarding secondary residence and the directives that have been clearly written here from numbers 1 through number 8.

Can somebody make that a motion?

Moved by Mr. Parsons, seconded by Ms Michael.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item again is with the proposed rule amendment regarding modes of travel. I will ask the Clerk to take us through this one as well.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is comparable to the first one we looked at in the notion of having to go to the Speaker to seek approval for certain modes of travel. If you want to travel by snowmobile or boat or modes that are not the standard modes outlined in the rules, you actually have to go to the Speaker each time.

The Speaker himself, and the Speaker and I discussed this, we are actually the ones who brought this to the Members’ Compensation Review Committee. Members have their intra-constituency allocation for travel in the district. So if Ms Jones needs to go by snowmobile it does not seem necessary for her to get an opinion or authority from the Speaker that she can go and do that. Similarly, I think Mr. Parsons may go along the South Coast by boat or something. If it is within their district, it is within their annual allocation, it does not seem appropriate for the Speaker to, in effect, have veto power over that. Conceivably, although the Speaker has never exercised it, he could refuse the request and then you simply could not use a snowmobile or a charter or a boat or so on.

The essence of this issue is really just to take that authority away from the Speaker and let members manage their own intra-constituency allocation for travel. Now, we have only applied it to the intra-constituency portion, and this what the Members’ Compensation Review Committee said, so that, for instance, you could not, without the Speaker’s authority, decide to take charters every time you came to St. John’s, or snowmobiles every time you came to St. John’s, or what have you. If you want to do that, you still need the Speaker’s approval. Within your district and within your own inter-constituency allocation, you are manager of your own funds and your own fate. So, it is really just removing the Speaker from that whole equation.

The other thing we have done is it is conceivable that a given member from a given permanent residence may find a regular or a continuing mode of transportation to St. John’s, which is not one of the regular ones, and because it is transportation to the Capital region it would not fall under these amendments to the inter-consistency. I do not know if those will exist, but there have been a couple of isolated instances where the Speaker has provided permission for members to travel to the Capital region on things like a charter. If that were to be a regular or continuing need, and, of course, it was not excessively expensive, this new proposed section, 3.1 - it is at the very end of the note - says that this Management Commission could issue a directive authorizing that member to travel that way on a regular basis without that member, every week, going to the Speaker for approval.

We do not know that anyone will come forward with this, but while we were amending this section of the rules we said: Well, we will put that in. There was one member we can think of who might be able to avail of this, has only ever done it once and that required the Speaker’s approval. If this were to be a regular means of getting from a permanent residence to St. John’s, we thought we would allow the Commission, by directive, to give that authority instead of every week an e-mail to the Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I think members are aware of that situation; it was the hon. the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune. It was not a plane that this particular member chartered but it was a chartered airline and she could ride on that to St. John’s, save money by the cost of her traveling by vehicle and save two days driving. We thought if we put this in, and if the member wanted to take advantage of that, then the authority rests with the Commission to give blanket coverage for a period of time rather than me having to deal with the way members travel to and from and within their districts.

Commentary?

Ms Jones.

MS JONES: The only comment that I would make is that I think this amendment, once again, is reflective of the fact that even when we passed the original legislation with regard to Green that there was a lot of misunderstanding about what is required to do our work oftentimes. This is one of the ones that I continue to run into. As you know, I have to use both small vessels and boats in my district, snowmobiles, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft in order to get around my district.

It was unbelievable when I looked at the original legislation to note that none of these things were noted. It just was a pure reflection to me of the fact that there was a failure to understand what some of the areas of our Province are like and what is required in trying to do your job as an MHA.

So, I certainly support the amendment today because I guess you learn from experience. The first time I went out and chartered a snowmobile and a guide to go into a community and came back, I realized that I was not allowed to do it and I did not get proper permission and did all of these things. I think it is important to have legislation that reflects the districts that we represent and what is required to do our jobs appropriately.

MR. SPEAKER: All we are saying here is that each individual member has been allocated an allotment of money for travel and we are not saying that this is beyond that. All this travel has to fall within the maximum allowable travel allowance that each member has. So, I did not see the need for the Speaker to be involved in giving permission every time somebody travels within their district.

Being no further need for discussion, would somebody make a motion that the proposed rule amendment regarding modes of travel be adopted as written?

Moved by Ms Michael; seconded by Ms Jones.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item under this particular tab would be the severance pay policy. As members know there was a recommendation made by the Members’ Compensation Review Committee regarding severance pay and there has been some discussion and there has been some public interest in the way this was brought forward and how it was written, I guess. I know it has been a problem with the Commission. The Commission has some interest in it because we felt that there is some language there that is very troublesome in how you administer what the recommendation is.

So, I see Ms Burke with her indication that she wanted to comment on this.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: My comments on this are: We struck the review committee who did their job and who came back and reported that if a member resigns during their term for a reason other than serious illness or serious illness of family member that they would not be eligible for severance.

I do not think we can accept the recommendation as it is for many obvious reasons, but one certainly would be a violation of privacy. You could leave for any type of medical reason that you do not want to disclose publicly or to the Speaker, to the staff or have that reviewed. Certainly, it is bad enough as public figures that we would be expected to go under that scrutiny, but I really have difficulty thinking that a family member who may be ill that we would have to disclose that. So, I do not think, as it stands, it is acceptable. I also think that it is not for us, as committee members, to sit here and discuss a significant policy change like this that affects all of us.

So, my recommendation is that if we cannot not accept it, because we can only modify it – I am not sure what the wording is on that. I think that we modify it so that it does not put – it almost makes it, I suppose, null and void as to how it is written now. I think that if we want more policy around severance that has to be instruction given to the next review committee that is struck. We know when it is going to be struck; we put it in legislation. I know that there are many employers out there that do have policies on severance and that we would ask, if that is our wishes for whoever strikes that next Commission, that we ask them to look at it.

So at this point, I guess my concerns are that there is a grandfathering effect that is not addressed in this, that there are privacy issues, and that there are significant policy issues that I really think need to come from a review commission and not from this table.

My recommendation is, unless people feel otherwise, that we put forward a motion that – and I do not know how we word it - either we do not accept it or we modify it, and we park it at that because we can talk of this at length now. Unless there is will around the table that we start discussing severance and modifying the policy, I just think it is a very major issue that really needs to be in the hands of a review commission.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Not that I want to prolong the discussion, I agree with what Ms Burke is saying. There is no way that I can accept the recommendation that has been put forward to us. I do not think it is adequate to look at the amendments that are being proposed. To me, it is rejection. Whichever way we want to do that - I do want to make a few points as to why I feel so strongly about it and Ms Burke has named some of them.

I just think it is absolutely unacceptable that serious illness is there. If we start getting into trying to come up with a list that is a bit ridiculous. I disagree with the rationale that was in the letter from the commission, especially when they say that we know why severance began back in the 1950s. To say that now it is still happening for the same reason and that is because you are leaving a job and you may have a time when you are not getting a job, is untrue actually, because there are many cases in the corporate sector where people leave the job and they get big severances, certainly on the level of CEOs; I think we are all aware of that.

I am not saying that is what we are looking for, what I am saying is the corporate sector gives severances in cases that the person is leaving the job, as is pointed out in the letter from the Members’ Compensation Review Committee. The public service sector of our Province allows both for resignation and retirement, you get severance. I do not know why the Members of the House of Assembly would get less than the public service sector which gets it in the case of resignation and retirement.

So, I would never accept this recommendation and I like what Ms Burke is proposing.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Jones.

MS JONES: Well, first of all, I think we need to realize that these recommendations were the result of a review that occurred in the first place. It was my understanding that when they went through the review process, there was ample opportunity for every member to present their case with regard to severance, with regard to pensions, with regard to wage increases and other issues. In terms of going back and consulting again with all of these MHAs, to me, I do not see the purpose in that. There was an opportunity for everyone to present their case, that was given to individuals, as was the opportunity to talk about all the other things that we talked about today on travel and allowances and secondary residences and so on.

Now, having said that, do I agree with the way the recommendations are formulated around severance pay policy? No, I do not. First of all, I think if we were to pass this, we are opening up something for ourselves and going down a road we might not want to go. First of all, who determines what a serious illness is? Is that determined at this table? What constitutes that and in what form do you have to submit to the Management Commission or to the House of Assembly of any particular illnesses relative to you or your family notwithstanding the issues around privacy?

Having said that, I think that what I would like to see is an opportunity for the Clerk and the staff of the Management Commission and of the House to go back and look at the public service severance policies are done, because it is my understanding they certainly fall under different terms than is being recommended to us today.

That would be one piece, and the other piece would be how is this dealt within the public sector? Maybe there were no MHAs who took the opportunity to talk to this Commission about severance at the time but the option was there for them to do so. Re-entering into that consultation process, I do not see it as being overly beneficial at this stage but what I would see beneficial is to provide to us some other options in terms of how the public service severance program works and what is normally acceptable today in the private sector. Because from what I understand, what is being proposed to us is a little off base from both of the policies that are available to most other workers in the Province.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Speaker, I agree with what Ms Jones is saying in terms of the need for further review, but I would see that as a responsibility of the next review commission to do that. They have made a proposal here, and for the reasons that have been said by Ms Burke, Ms Michael and Ms Jones, it is just not an acceptable recommendation. Add to it again the enforcement aspect of it, how do you police it, how do you monitor it? I would put a motion on the floor that this be rejected.

MS MICHAEL: Seconded.

MR. SPEAKER: It is properly moved and seconded that the current provisions for the payment of severance paid to an MHA remain unchanged and that this particular item and topic be referred to the next appointed Management Compensation Review Committee.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item is under Tab 9. I would not even attempt to try to explain this particular one. I am after reading it three times and I am still more confused than ever.

The Clerk.

CLERK: I will try, Mr. Speaker.

At the very first meeting of the Commission, thirteen decisions were made. This was back in August, 2007. When we sent out the decision list, the list that we send out two days after a meeting, we missed one. I guess I missed it because I do not think Marie was even with us in those days. So we only sent out twelve. When we discovered it, we sent out a separate memo just including the one decision, the thirteenth. That was officially approved through the two-day process.

However, when we went to the next meeting of the Commission and started to number those minutes, we lost the isolated minute, the number thirteen, and we used the original memo which only itemized twelve decisions. Consequently, in that second meeting of November, 2007, we started numbering minutes at thirteen again. So the last decision of the very first meeting of the Commission had a minute number 2007-013, and the first decision of the November, 2007 meeting had the identical minute number, 2007-013. Now that decision of the November meeting was not a substantive one, it was simply approving the minutes of the very first meeting.

We never noticed it. The Comptroller General, when he was doing a compliance review of the Management Commission and House staff, discovered that we had duplicate minutes. What they suggested, and what we propose here, is that the minute 2007-013 from the August 2007 meeting stay as number 013, but the duplicated one become 013A. If we do not do something like that then we will be renumbering every minute for the rest of 2007. So, it is really just clarifying the matter, but because it is the minutes of the Commission, and these are rather sensitive, we do want to approve Commission minutes so they are revised –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

CLERK: Okay.

MR. SPEAKER: You have obviously gotten through, Mr. Clerk.

The recommended minute is that the Commission approves the revised minutes for meetings of August 29, 2007 and November 28, 2007.

Could somebody make that motion?

Made by Mr. Parsons; seconded by Ms Burke.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item is under Tab 10. Here again, it is for reporting purposes. If there are questions that need to be asked, by all means bring them forward. It is the quarterly review of the financial performance of the House of Assembly, as well as the actual expenditures of members of the House of Assembly to see and to make sure that those allocations and those expenditures fall within the approved allocations.

The first one that we will do will be for the Legislature and the statutory offices. While members have had this for a week, I am sure that they have given it due consideration. If there are any questions to be asked under either one of those headings for the period of April up to December, 2009, I ask members now to put forward your concerns or ask your questions. We can take an opportunity just to review and for members to take a look at any notes they may have made.

We will just do the Legislature and the Statutory Offices first, Ms Michael. As members will note, there are numbers assigned to each heading there and with a note underneath to give an explanation of what overruns are and what the extras are.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: What I want to point out is actually in the Auditor General’s report. May I move on to that?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MS MICHAEL: I think it is just typos on the second page of the Auditor General’s report. In budget line 05., Professional Services, what is being shown is a savings, I think, of $2,700? In the note it calls it an overrun. That has happened a couple of times. I just want to make sure that I am correct.

So 05., Professional Services, what we have there is $2,700 as projected savings, because it is not in brackets. So either that is – and I did the math and I think it is a saving, not an overrun. I found that on the next page as well. Again, it was with 05., and the note for 05., it is a savings of $13,800 and it is down as an overrun in the note. Just to point that out. I just wanted to make sure I was correct. I did do the math and it looked like savings.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: Yes, actually there is an error there. The number 05 should not be next to the $2,700. It should only be next to the $2,300 in brackets. The overruns are actually over the original budget.

MS MICHAEL: (Inaudible) as well. Okay, I have it.

MR. SPEAKER: On the following page, you say, Ms Michael, for the Auditor General’s office as well?

MS LAMBE: It is the same situation. Number 04 should not be next to the $13,800.

MR. SPEAKER: Should not be next to the $13,800.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Members are observant.

Further commentary?

If not we can move into the expenditure summarized for each Member of the House of Assembly, and the forty-eight Members of the House of Assembly are all listed there with their expenditures to date and the percentage expended to date.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: If I may, in case there is somebody who does read right through every single one of these reports, I noticed my own report - so if you can find mine, Lorraine Michael - I had to ask questions because it shows that, under Travel and Living Allowances, I have a minus before the amounts of money and then I am showing a percent expended to date being -35.9 per cent. What it is, it all has to do – I have the note from the administrative office - it all has to do with the change in the leader’s travel. When the report for January comes out it will not be showing up this way, because I said: What is that about? It is about where money had to go in and out, and an error was made. Something that is seen here should actually be under Leader’s Travel, not here in this category at all. So, it is quite complicated. Just to point out, I have spoken to the administration of these documents and it will not read like this. So, for those who are listening to us, when we made changes to the leader’s travel we had to put money in. If we chose to go with the car allowance I had to pay back the mileage money that I had gotten, and that is part of what this is all reflecting. It looked really funny to see that I had a minus percentage expended to date.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible) spending your own money.

MS MICHAEL: That is right. So it will not look that way in the January report.

MR. SPEAKER: Thanks for that explanation. I think this is available for anybody who wants to look at it and see where Members of the House of Assembly have spent their allowances. It is all posted. If anybody needs a copy they can have it sent to them if they want. I do not have any other commentary other than to say that is the report.

The next item on the agenda will be under 11, The Approval of Transfer of Funds – Caucus Operational Grants. As members know, when we take funds from the Caucus Operational Grants, the approval has to come from the Commission, and it is brought back to the Commission now for the approval of those particular transfers.

I ask the Chief Financial Officer if she would give us a brief explanation of what those are so that we could deal with them.

MS LAMBE: Yes, as the Speaker indicated, because it is a transfer into the Grants and Subsidies main object and because it is out of the Allowances and Assistance main object, both of those types of transfer require the approval of the Management Commission.

This transfer is required because when we were preparing the budget last year, we forgot to include funds under Grants and Subsidies for the change in the monthly amount due to the adjustment for the Consumer Price Index. Therefore there were not sufficient funds in the budget and we needed to transfer an amount into each of the caucuses and the House operations for the Speaker’s amount.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

If not, would somebody make a motion that we authorize the transfer of funds from Allowances and Assistance into the particular headings here for Grants and Subsidies to the Caucus Operations to cover the CPI for the year?

MR. PARSONS: So moved.

MR. SPEAKER: Made by Mr. Parsons; seconded by Mr. Ridgley.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item would, again, be the approval for a transfer of funds through the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer. Here again, this particular item comes from Allowances and Assistance.

As members know, according to the Elections Act, candidates offering themselves for election are entitled to, with the approval by receipts, one-third refund of what it costs to operate and run an election. This particular cost then is submitted to the Legislature for payment. We have had several by-elections but up until now we have only had one submission for their one-third of election expenses. It has to be done within four months of an election in order to qualify and be considered.

The total sum would be for $8,100 and we need the Commission’s approval to have the money transferred from Allowances and Assistance into Grants and Subsidies for $8,100.

If there is no further commentary, somebody can make a motion that we allow that transfer to take place?

Moved by Ms Michael; seconded by Mr. Parsons that the Commission approve the following transfer, $8,100 from Allowances and Assistance to Grants and Subsidies.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda is to deal with another matter that has already been done in a way that, since the matter needed to be dealt with, we used again the accountability and integrity act for the Speaker to seek guidance and to seek permission from members of the Commission - at least one from the government side and one from Opposition - to transfer money from Allowances and Assistance prior to a particular regular meeting of the Commission. This was done in relation to the O’Neill Review. At that particular time, I think the Clerk conferred with Ms Michael, Ms Marshall, Ms Burke, Mr. Kennedy and myself. While the permission was granted, we need to bring it back here now for the ratification to allow that particular transaction to take place.

If there is no further commentary, can somebody move that the Commission ratify the approval of the transfer of funds of $22,800 from Allowances and Assistance to Purchased Services?

Is there anything else that needs to be added to that particular action, Mr. Clerk?

CLERK: The minute at the bottom, under Action Required, we have included both transfers.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

CLERK: So, if we simply approve that minute, that would cover both transfers.

MR. SPEAKER: So, if we could approve the minute that the Commission ratify that?

Ms Jones.

MS JONES: I would like to do them separately as I am opposed to one and supportive of the other.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

The motion is made that the Commission ratify the approval of the following transfers of funds. I will read the first one first. Budget Transfer HOABT2009-0012 for the transfer of funds from Members’ Resources – Allowances and Assistance to Administrative Support – Professional Services and the Office of the Citizens’ Representative – Professional Services for professional fees for services and legal costs.

It has been moved. Is there a seconder?

Seconded by Ms Burke.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nay.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The next budgetary transfer would be from HOABT2009-0015 for the transfer of funds from Members’ Resources – Allowances and Assistance to Members’ Resources – Purchased Services for renovations required to provide adequate constituency office space. That is the one that we talked about earlier.

Can somebody make a motion that we allow that transfer to take place?

Moved by Mr. Parsons; seconded by Mr. Ridgley.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item again is for reporting purposes only and it is budget transfers from one heading to another within departments. While those transfers are to be reported, we do not need a motion to allow that to happen. In most cases, I would say they probably already have happened.

Members can take an opportunity to look at the transfers, where the money came from and where it went within each particular department; it is listed there and an explanation is provided. If members have commentary or a need to ask questions, by all means.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I have just a comment, Mr. Speaker. I think we have had this comment made before, but I think we need to continue recognizing it and recognizing it publicly that where the money is coming from, in many of the instances where transfers are made, is from the Members’ Resources - Allowances and Assistance.

We have said before, but I would like to repeat, we know that part of the reason why there continues to be, for the last couple of years, money under that category is one because of budgeting that has to be done to recognize what is the right of every member of the House under the rules. For the moment, there is money there to do this kind of transfer, but the more that we get used to the rules and the more that we refine them we are going to come to a point where there is going to be less, and there should be, less money left every year under Allowances and Assistance.

So, I think it is something that we need to be aware of because we are not always going to have money lying around that we can easily access to transfer when we have these new expenditures or unexpected expenditures in the statutory offices in particular because that is where most of these transfers are occurring. It is an ongoing concern and I think we need to recognize it, especially when some of the transfers like the large one from the Office of the Citizens’ Representative for Professional Services - $62,500. That is a pretty big transfer and we know it has to do with unexpected expenses with regard to the need for legal and professional assistance on issues that arose in that particular statutory office. It begs the question: Is there a point at which we have to recognize that there may be, on an ongoing basis, the need for money under that particular head, both professional and legal services? This year we put a lot of money and we have been asked to do a lot of transferring under those heads for not just this statutory office but others. It is an ongoing concern and I would just like to have it named here as we vote on this today. This year we have the money; we can do it.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary on individual transfer that members might have some interest in? If not, it is for reporting purposes only and it is clearly established here where the transfers came from and the nature of the transfer.

Next would be Tab 13 and this would be a telephone policy. There has been some issue brought about and some discussion that have happened here at a regular meeting in the past whereby members thought that we should establish some kind of a policy regarding cellular and landline phone service for employees of the House of Assembly service and caucus offices and statutory offices.

The staff has put forward a recommendation here with a cellular and a landline telephone policy that might be acceptable. Here again, it is a recommendation and if members want to change either part of this particular suggestion then, by all means, bring it forward, or if there are other things that need to be added or if it needs to be rejected in total. It is certainly up for members’ review.

The Clerk may want to make further commentary on this particular item.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just on a couple of points noted in the briefing note. Members and CAs have a policy around their phone use. In the executive branch of government there is a cellular phone policy and that is attached to this note as a Treasury Board directive. There is no formal written policy that we are aware of for landlines that various practices have developed over the years, but there is not a formal policy that we are aware of within the executive branch for dealing with landline phones. When it came to looking at a cellphone policy for our staff, for those who are not members, we said well we should also include the landline matters in here as well. Issues like signing off on long-distance calls and so on, we really should have a policy on that. On the cellphones, it is essentially similar to government - how you acquire one, who is entitled to have one, and those sorts of matters, incidental usage, where we have the same matter here as government, those sorts of things. I think it is fair to say Ms Lambe wants a policy. A policy provides direction, auditors look for policies, and once we have a policy for these we can go to staff and insist on their sign off for reviewing bills and those sorts of matters.

I do not know, Ms Lambe, if there is something we should point out, compared to government or compared to the members.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: No, I think the Clerk covered all the matters. If anyone has any questions on why we proposed any particular part of the policy, certainly I can answer any questions.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

Ms Jones.

MS JONES: Yes, I have no problem with the policy as such. It has pretty well been in practice now in our office for the last little while. The only issue that I have with it is when you have so many phones in your office and all those lines getting used and all those cell phones getting used, it is a very timely process to review all of these phone bills. I do not know if there is anything different that we can do but as a person who is responsible to sign off on this at the end of the day, it takes up a great deal of your time is what I am saying. You are not talking about reviewing four or five, or six or seven phone lines here, you are talking about a couple of dozen phone lines over extended periods of time. I think we get them every three months or something like that. I do not know if there is another process. You ask others to review it within your office and so on. I do not know what they do in government departments. I am sure if a minister is responsible for signing off on every phone line in a department of government, there is absolutely no way that they can sit down and review every one of those phone lines and every employee and talk to them and decide which calls are personal, if there are any personal ones on that particular line. I am just wondering how they deal with that and how the comptroller deals with it? I do not know, maybe the minister can answer it for us in terms of what is done in her department.

My other question is with regard to the statutory offices of the House of Assembly. Will they now adapt this policy as well? The Auditor General, the Citizens’ Rep, each of those people will also be responsible for doing and conducting the same practices that Ms Michael and I have to do in our offices, I guess. I would think they are going to have the same issue. It is just a time issue; it is not a problem with doing it. I have no objection to it. I think it needs to be done. I am just wondering if there is a more effective way that is used in government departments by ministers because it would be legitimately impossible to do it in the manner that we are conducting it right now.

MR. SPEAKER: I refer to the Clerk.

CLERK: Yes. The way we have structured this - understanding that you as leader, leader of a caucus, or minister, obviously cannot do this, so we have defined a responsible individual. You can delegate it to an administrative assistant, or if you are in a department, a director or a manager or so on, because we, better than anyone in our review of all phones, understand how onerous it is.

Ms Lambe has an individual, who is not much short of full-time, looking at phone bills, if you can believe it. So we understand that. If each of these offices assigns a responsible individual then that person would take responsibility. It does not have to be the leader of the party going through all of this.

MS JONES: I guess that individual then could sign off on all of this, because I certainly do not want to be the person signing off on what someone else is delegated to do. So that would be acceptable?

CLERK: Yes.

MS JONES: Just out of curiosity, you are telling me that there is a full-time position in the House of Assembly just to monitor phone bills. Are we saving any money in those kinds of practices? If we are paying someone $40,000 a year to monitor the phone bills, are we getting anything back in return? Are there any savings at all? I am just curious, you know.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: I would have to say absolutely not. The whole issue is a matter of internal controls, and in light of what happened before, we have seventeen staff in Corporate Members’ Services, which is far and above what any small, comparable government department would have in the administrative section, but unlike government departments we are subject to such a high degree of scrutiny. There is no – seems to be no tolerance for any error. It is not a matter of cost benefit, whether it is worth spending $40,000 to make sure that no employee ever makes a call that they should not.

So, it is just that when the internal auditors look at this, when the external auditors, the Management Certification people come in, when we report to the Commission, whatever, everything is supposed to be, really, 100 per cent correct. If that is what we are aiming for then we need the staff to do it, and that is why the logistics really of when we get the phone bills online from Aliant, get them all sorted so that the right person gets each one, the ones that they are responsible for, and then get them all sent out, make sure that they all come back. Then there is the related work when it comes to checking what Aliant does and what we get in. There are always questions: Should we be charged for this, shouldn’t we? We are in constant contact with them for making adjustments. All of that basically takes one full-time person to do.

It is my understanding that government departments would not go through that degree of detail with their phone bills, or with any of the other processes, really.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: First of all, just in relation to that issue of cost and what you are getting back. The Auditor General attended a meeting of the audit committee, of the Management Committee about a month ago and made a statement that if it were strictly a matter of dollars and cents we would be better off, as a House of Assembly, giving each MHA an allotted amount per year with absolutely zero controls on them, in terms of accountability, and the Province would be millions of dollars ahead, given the harmony that we are currently paying for in order to police the issue. So, I guess it is a case of you put controls in place, internal controls and whatever else, but you do so at a magnificent cost was his opinion. I guess you question how far you go with those things sometimes.

Anyway, just to get things moving, I think the policy is very reasonable here. It is broad. We have to start somewhere. It is exactly that, a policy, and I would move that we adopt the phone policy.

MS MICHAEL: I second it.

MR. SPEAKER: Properly moved and seconded.

"Pursuant to subparagraph 20(6)(b)(ii) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, the Commission adopts the Cellular and Landline Phone Services Policy for employees of the House of Assembly Service, Caucus Offices and Statutory Offices" effective February, 2010.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda will be Printing Services, policy again, another policy for Members of the House of Assembly. While we might be putting a lot of policies in place, I think the one thing that we heard loud and clear from members and from staff is that members and staff need to be guided on what they can do and what they cannot do.

This is an issue that has been brought back several times here to the Commission. In fact there has been, since that, another piece of correspondence that has not been included because of the arrival after the minutes were printed, regarding members having a problem with having to use, and being directed to use, the Queen’s Printer in order to get printing done for householders, cards and whatever other information that they may want to use in paper form. The cost is certainly much more than they would get from an outside provider. That particular cost, you might say it stays within and you have money provided, it comes out of that particular member’s allowance and takes away from the amount of money that they are allocated to carry out other things that they may want to do.

So there is a minute here that has been provided. I do not know if members want to have further conversation. Mr. Parsons, you may want to have a comment on this particular item, but I think it is in line with the piece of correspondence that I recently received from you. If you want to make commentary or somebody else then we welcome it now.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I just comment that I appreciate the fact this is being followed up on by the (inaudible). I raise this issue as well in the correspondence that was sent to you, Mr. Speaker, and was also carbon copied to the Audit Committee because it was raised at that level as well and they thought that this policy change was certainly in order as well. So, I am glad to see that it is here and I think it makes good sense.

MR. SPEAKER: We are certainly not doing anything over and above what we are allowed to do. We are just giving again - allowing members to go out and get the lowest price possible. Members still have to abide by the Public Tender Act. If it is more than $200 to get three quotes and then take the lowest of that quote unless there are reasons that it may not be done.

So the recommended minute, if there is no further discussion, is that pursuant to subparagraph 20(6)(b)(ii) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, the Commission approves the printing policy for Members of the House of Assembly and constituency assistants, dated February 2010. The Commission amends the Purchasing Policy - Under $200, dated November 2008 by deleting the phrase, "purchase printing services without prior authorization from the Queen’s Printer to procure from outside sources" from section 4.1 of the policy.

Can somebody make that motion?

Moved by Mr. Parsons; seconded by Mr. Ridgley.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

The next item on the agenda again is to get a decision of the Commission. It is two members. The Member for St. John’s East - we may as well do the two of them together because it is exactly the same – and the hon. Member for the District of Torngat Mountains, for reasons that they have stated here, have submitted a claim; two claims with the Member for Torngat Mountains and one claim for the Member for St. John’s East for an amount of money that falls within the guidelines, meets the test of being approved through the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, but is beyond the sixty-day limit.

One for the Member for the Torngat Mountains is a total of $568.45 and it is itemized here what those particular charges are. The other one, again submitted by the Member for Torngat Mountains, some of it is included in the movement of her constituency assistant to the value of $607.68. The one from the Member for St. John’s East is for a total of $118.75.

The question is for the Commission’s approval to pay those particular invoices.

Moved by Mr. Parsons; seconded by Ms Jones.

All those in favour, 'aye'.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, 'nay'.

The motion is carried.

That concludes the agenda of Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Yes, if I could for just a moment, I have a question actually for Marlene.

I just received an e-mail actually from an executive staff member within one of the departments. Apparently, in the departments they actually receive the phone bills directly from Bell, which would save a lot of time and logistics for staff of the House of Assembly and perhaps even make it a lot easier for members and political staff within the House of Assembly as well. Is that a possibility for us?

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: I mean I am really not aware of that. We have met with Aliant actually as recently as last week talking about their different processes in place, and some of the issues we have in trying to find an easier way to group the phone bills for the employees was one of our concerns. They did not mention to us at that time that there was any possibility of sending them to each employee. They have a Web site which is password controlled and they allow a couple of people to enter their site and you can extract the information from the site.

Without knowing any more details, I really do not know but our conversation with them was to try to find a way to group them so that at least we could have them in groups and we would not have to sort them all when they came in.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Is that something you can check on?

MS LAMBE: I can certainly check on that, yes, with them.

MR. T. OSBORNE: If that is the case within the departments, that they come directly to the employee, it obviously saves a bunch of time, and I know the way that they are e-mailed to us from the House and we print them is actually quite confusing to read through them.

MS LAMBE: That is the way they appear on their Web site. We download them. We go into the Web site, actually, and we download them from their Web site using a protected password so that we can only see our information and no one else in government or anyone else.

MR. T. OSBORNE: That is something that you can check on -

MS LAMBE: I certainly can check on it.

MR. T. OSBORNE: -and we might save that $40,000.

MS LAMBE: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Just for the public record, Mr. Speaker, Ms Marshall has left, of course, government and she is no longer the chair of the Audit Committee of the management committee. I think it is a very crucial committee and the chair is selected by the management committee and I think we ought to turn our attention as soon as possible to making sure that we have a replacement appointed for her.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we adjourn this meeting, I would just like to say that we need another meeting within the next two weeks. There is a process to be followed if we are going to change rules and members have to be notified. We have to have a second meeting in order to have the minutes reconfirmed, I guess, if you would, and then have them gazetted before they come into effect. So, we are hoping to arrange another meeting within the next couple of weeks and hopefully we will have a name submitted at that time to bring to the Commission or the Commission can decide who the person is who will serve on the Audit Committee, and to serve and we need a chair as well.

So, thank you, and we will add that to the agenda. I thank members and thank staff for their attendance and their input.

This meeting is now adjourned.