March 24, 2010             HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION               No. 26


The Management Commission met at 5:30 p.m. in the Chamber.

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): Good evening.

Welcome to a regularly scheduled meeting of the House of Assembly Management Commission. We will start as we do every other meeting, for the benefit of those who are viewing by the medium of television, by having members and staff introduce themselves.

I will start to my immediate left with Mr. Kennedy.

MR. KENNEDY: Jerome Kennedy, MHA, Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Kelvin Parsons, Opposition House Leader and Member for the District of Burgeo & La Poile.

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

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

MS LAMBE: Marlene Lambe, Chief Financial Officer.

CLERK: Bill MacKenzie, Clerk.

MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk’s Office.

MR. SPEAKER: My name is Roger Fitzgerald and by virtue of being the Speaker, the Chair of the Commission.

I ask members to review the minutes to the previous meeting that was held on February 17 of this year and if there are no errors or omissions we would entertain a motion for the minutes to be accepted as written.

Commentary or motion?

Moved by Mr. Ridgley, seconded by Mr. Parsons, that the minutes of February 17, 2010, be adopted as written.

Minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: The next item on the agenda is the Speaker’s Report regarding Travel by Other Modes, and that is other modes other than the accepted way I guess that we normally travel by automobile or a commercial aircraft. There are two to report; one was for the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune who chartered I guess it was a helicopter to travel to towns in her constituency. The aircraft charter was from Conne River to François on February 11, 2010, for a total sum of $4,793.04. Again, the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune on March 9, 2010, an aircraft charter from St. Alban’s to McCallum, Rencontre East, Gaultois and François for a total of $8,106. Here you will notice that it is an estimated cost, and I guess the estimated cost is the final bill has not been received but that was the estimation of what it was going to cost her to travel through her constituency.

The next item would be, again, a report on Members’ Resources and Allowances Rules. It was the Member for the District of Humber Valley who had security issues with his member’s office in his constituency and asked that a camera be installed. The camera was installed, or permission given to have it installed for the amount of $1,398. That was for a security camera.

The next item is Report on Authorizations for Furniture and Equipment Expenditures.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: On the issue of Mr. Kelly, the Humber Valley member, was there some particular issue? I realize it is only a report item, but was there a particular issue or was it just a request for security?

MR. SPEAKER: No, there was a particular issue, and there have been a couple of issues with the constituency offices. One particular office was broken into and furniture taken, but it was not Mr. Kelly’s. I think the Member for the Bay of Islands had an issue before. I think this is the third camera that we are probably after paying to install.

In this particular issue, the member’s constituency office is located between two nightclubs and he has had an issue with the door being abused or damaged leading into his office when there has been nobody there. His constituency assistant had some concern about being there. It was the only place available at the time. It was a place where his constituency office is located. We thought it only right to allow him to have some protection of having surveillance of a camera there.

Any other commentary?

The next item is a report, and I guess it is the Clerk’s report where the Clerk has been authorized to provide furniture, up to a maximum of $500, which is in the Resources and Allowances Rules. It was a request from the Member for Port au Port for a three-drawer lateral filing cabinet. That piece of furniture was approved for a total of $459.

The next item on the agenda is a particular topic that has been brought back here, I think this is probably the third time, and it is regarding Constituency Assistants, and I guess the different ways that we deal with paying and the different benefits that constituency assistants get by virtue of being a constituency assistant within a department versus a constituency assistant within Government Members or Opposition Offices other than departments.

The last time it was brought back to the Management Commission, and it was brought here in the beginning and talked about because there was some problem with wording in the Green report that did not quite reflect on how constituency assistants were paid and how we dealt with providing them with the resources they need to carry out their work. The last time that we brought this particular item back we were asked to do a consultation on the implications of dealing with transferring consistency assistants on department payrolls to House of Assembly payroll and to talk about other issues. I guess that was probably being the main one, but when you do consultations there are also other things that are brought to light with constituency assistants and their desire to be, I guess, treated a little bit differently or the same as everybody else.

The information has been provided here. All the constituency assistants were polled, if you would, and there were twenty-three responses. The responses were not all written out. It was given in a congested style, but if members want the responses - it was done in a way that no constituency assistant would be identified. We thought for the benefit of making decisions that we would provide it in the format that we have done here.

There are a couple of options provided and those are for discussion purposes only. I think we probably all have our own views and opinions of what we should do or where we should go with this. There are some implications on how we – if we are going to make changes, and we just cannot really deal with it ourselves here if we are going to do changes, because in some cases it will have to be done by the Public Service Commission Act or the Executive Council Act. We can certainly make recommendations and deal with those acts and make suggestions at that time.

I will open up the floor for discussion.

Commentary? Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I thank the Clerk and his staff for the detailed work that was done around this with all the information. Besides putting out the survey to the constituency assistants and compiling that; coming up with the options and giving us the implications of all the options. I am not sure – I will speak to the implications because I think that whatever options we come up with, then we deal with the implications of whatever they are. In some cases it looks like there may be a little bit more work involved if we chose the option, but I think the way I personally would want to go with it is choose an option and then we say okay, if that is what we really think it should be then we do what has to be done.

I have looked at this and given a lot of thought to it. I think the big issue, or there are a couple of issues, but the main issue, as I see it, is the one that has to do with the unequal treatment of the constituency assistants with regard to eligibility for applying for jobs internally in the government system. CAs who are in ministers’ departments have something that others do not have. It is definitely a perk that they can do that. I am of the opinion that they all should be treated the same with regard to that eligibility. That would be the option that I would want to look at, is everybody being treated the same.

Now, a question has come up for me in looking at the issue, and I know that years ago this had been discussed in the House of Assembly, is the issue of all the political positions. I am not certain of what the situation is in other jurisdictions in Canada but I think that there is at least one jurisdiction that I think may allow anybody who is working in legislative situations, whether it is CAs or other political staff, to have rights to be eligible for opportunities that come open inside the government system.

The reason why I put that out is I am aware of a situation where when people saw that the government that they were working for, they had a pretty good hunch it was not going to win the next election – I am aware of people who are friends of mine who actually applied for jobs inside of the government system. I think that does happen in other jurisdictions, I do not know which ones for sure and how many. So it opened up a broader question for me, that if we look at the eligibility issue and we say constituency assistants, or I would want us to say that all constituency assistants would be eligible. I would like to suggest that we actually look at what is happening in the rest of Canada with regard to political staff and eligibility for jobs inside of the government system.

That is my first comment, Mr. Speaker. As I said, I understand – now I cannot remember the details, I know I read them. There are things that would have to be worked out if we were to say to go with Option 4. There are changes even to legislation, I think, Mr. Clerk - is that true? - that would have to be made, but changes to legislation is not a big issue if we thought that was the way to go. Then the second point, if we thought it was the way to go, I would like to look at the broader issue of all political staff.

MR. SPEAKER: I think maybe the financial control officer may have commentary on some information that she found out of what was happening in other jurisdictions.

Ms Lambe.

MS LAMBE: Yes, since the last meeting, we did do a poll of the other jurisdictions. We received ten responses. Basically, there were only two provinces – well, New Brunswick and the Senate staff that can apply on internal competitions. All the rest are not eligible to apply. That actually does include the caucus staff in most instances.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Essentially the same as Ms Michael, and having spoken to a number of the constituency assistants, their main concern – and this is not in a department, it is just up in Government Members’ Office, is that all constituency assistants be treated alike. Now, most of them up there then put on the little addendum: Well, I do not want to take anything away from what the ones already have. They were a bit concerned about that. Their main concern was that people be treated alike. I guess if that is the case then, we would have to focus on option 4, which is taking the assistants which are presently under the House of Assembly and giving them the same rights as the departmental constituency assistants have at this time.

Would it be in order, Mr. Speaker, to make a motion that this Commission recommend the adoption of Option 4? I put that up for debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Maybe we can receive some commentary first, if you do not mind, and then if you would like to make a motion, we can certainly entertain it.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I guess my comment is that I do not think we are anywhere near right now to make a decision on this this evening for a couple of reasons. One is that the constituency assistants right now are in the departments, and one thing when you read through these briefing notes, it almost reads that if you have a constituency assistant and you are a minister, is that your constituency assistant is located right in your ministry. There are many cases where the minister has a constituency office outside. So they are not all located within the department. So I kind of felt that the note did not clearly delineate exactly what is going on.

I think there are a couple of things that need to happen. One is I think there would need to be a Cabinet paper if we are going to have any changes to the Executive Council Act. So I think this needs to be referred to the Cabinet table for a discussion, because I think they need input as well to see what other issues may be there that we are not considering here at the Management Commission.

One issue that I will highlight, and I am not sure if we changed and put the constituency assistants under the House of Assembly how this would be impacted, but there are some times when the executive assistant for the minister is not available or off sick or maybe off for a week or so, and you do not hire another EA, the constituency assistant often steps in and works doing departmental work to cover off that. So that is a common thing to happen is that they would step into the EA role, probably not officially being paid – I guess they could if it was an extended period of time, they could go into an acting role - but they often do it on a day-to-day basis, and therefore would have access to departmental staff or information or whatever; so they would be part of the department.

That would be the only issue that I would see is if they were coming in, say, to cover off for an extended period of time, we would have to do the payroll differently, take them off the House of Assembly, put them on a department and take them off the department again. Then, also, if they are not an employee of the department, but they are going to backfill for the EA for any amount of time, how much access do they have to information or the department, or is somebody from outside then who is – like no more than we would have our CA go into another minister’s department feeling they had access to information or could look around and do whatever they wanted. So there is a logistical issue there that I do not think is necessarily reflected, but may be discussed more at the Cabinet table where the ministers would have both the EA. and the CA at any given time.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Members should keep in their minds as well, because while we are talking about constituency assistants here, actually what we are talking about is political staff, and there are many more groups other than constituency assistants. So, to make a decision on only talking about constituency assistants, then the next meeting we are going to be here talking about political staff. EAs or other groups of people that work in government offices, Opposition offices, should have rights as well. Some of the ideas that were brought up, constituency assistants are treated differently not only for competition, but for pension purposes, for the drug plan.

So I think it is a bigger picture than whether we want to allow constituency assistants to take part in internal competitions. I do not know if members want to consider if we should look at doing a review. I do not mean hiring an outside consultant or anything, but to look at a bigger review of how we should be dealing with, or how we should be treating, or what privileges should be given to political staff, just to get people thinking as to where we should go.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, I think that is what I was getting at, Mr. Speaker, is that it is a bigger picture, and you have put it very, very clearly. I would be in agreement with you. I am thinking, based on what has just been said by Ms Burke, I do not think it would need to be a two-step thing. Maybe we could be pursuing it here and also the Cabinet looking at it at the same time. That could be a way of doing it so that we do everything, then it has to go to Cabinet. That is just a thought. They obviously do have to look at it; we know that this change could not be made without their involvement.

Mr. Speaker, I am with you. I think looking at the whole political staff question - because I was surprised when I saw that the drug and pensions were different, the drug benefits, especially now that we are into a new situation since Green than before Green with regard to the political staff. My understanding is - I was not around say five years ago - you did not have the classifications, you did not have the standardization of the roles, which we even now have for the constituency assistants with job descriptions, et cetera. So we are moving into a whole new place, and I think we should be with regard to the staff. So, maybe there is a bigger picture there to be looked at.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Yes, I would agree with having a review done and having the input of Cabinet on the issue. The one thing that I would ask that we keep in mind with a review – I mean some of the constituency assistants are not here for an extended period of time and some of the constituency assistants are. Some are here for fourteen or sixteen or twenty years or longer, and if you look at a temporary position within a department, those individuals who are here literally for three or four months have the right to apply internally, yet a constituency assistant or other staff who would be here for several years would not have that right. I am in favour of having a review done of not only constituency assistants but other staff as well, but asking to keep that in mind, the equity on internal applying.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, there has been quite a difference. I mean, somebody can be hired for thirteen weeks, and after the first day they can apply for an internal competition. I know one person who has been here for forty-two years and do not have the right to apply for an internal competition, and I think that balance is not exactly where it should be.

Does the Clerk want to add some commentary here, if the Commission approves doing something further on this, so as we can get a better understanding, and before we present it to Cabinet as something that is complete? How do we go about it or how would we do it?

CLERK: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think, clearly, Cabinet would want advice from, let’s say, their own branch of government. Cabinet would not want to hear what the staff here has to say on the matter, because there are a lot of implications here. The drug plan you mentioned, I think that is upon retirement, Ms Michael, is what they are saying there, because they are on the group money purchase plan, they are not PSPP. So they take the contributions, both their own and government’s, put it into some sort of annuity, and they are not eligible to continue the group insurance, whereas in PSPP you are eligible to continue. There are issues of – well, of course, the Public Service Commission Act. There are considerations around NAPE; they would have some concerns about these matters and so on.

So Cabinet would need to have a full range of issues addressed. Maybe if the Commission, and particularly the ministers involved, if we request the Public Service Secretariat or the Department of Finance or someone to work with us on it, we could look at it. It may be that either of those bodies could look at it themselves, with us providing advice to them.

The nature of Cabinet is they will want to receive their own unique advice. So to get a review which would satisfy Cabinet’s needs, some arm of the Executive Branch, I think, would have to be involved with that advice. We could write Executive Council, I guess, and ask to collaborate on something, or something along those lines. It cannot just be the House presenting information to Cabinet.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

The other thing is if we went out seeking advice, like every other report that comes back here, it is not binding. It is something you can either accept or reject, but at least it will show some changes, or get us thinking in a way that might bring some equality to the constituency assistants’ plight here within government.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: In the interest of efficiency, because I do not think we can put a motion together here just like that, I think we need to have a motion carefully thought out, I am wondering one of two things. If we agree - we need to see if we agree - we then ask the Clerk to put a proposed motion together for us, which is what happens with our briefing notes, and depending on how quickly we want to make the decision, either get a decision made through the electronic means or wait until our next meeting, one or the other. If we come to an agreement here on what we want, and it is only a matter of having a well-worded motion, then we might be able to do the agreement electronically afterwards, an electronic vote, but I do not think we can just sit and try to word the motion here now.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and our options, to look at the four options provided here, and if it is the Commission’s wish that we go with one of those, then we can certainly make a motion to that effect; or if the Commission members feel that we need to put further thought and craft a motion to be brought back here so that we can bring some result to that, then that is certainly somewhere that we can look at as well. So I am open for commentary one way or the other to bring conclusion to this particular topic.

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: I would guess, Mr. Speaker, if we are going to set out with the goal of making all constituency assistants the same, there are only two options. We either remove the rights that exist or we give rights to the ones who do not have them. So, maybe if we focus on that like which kind of direction would we prefer to go? That is why I was putting Option 4 on the floor, that we instate rights to those who do not have them now or do we want to go the other way, let’s remove rights? Because if, as you say, we give rights to the ones who do not have them now we may be opening up a whole kettle of fish that we do not want to go to?

MR. SPEAKER: So am I hearing that we deal with constituency assistants here now and not deal with anybody else because that is the issue that is on the table?

MR. RIDGLEY: Well, I guess the question I am putting on the floor, Mr. Speaker, would be: Do we want to remove rights or instate rights?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, okay.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I am seeing it a little bit differently. I think that we have started this process, this debate here now, and as I said before, I do not think we are anywhere near making a decision. There are a lot of other issues coming into play, and there are other staff as well. Again, it has to also go back to the logistics right now of, we are sitting here discussing, we have done our survey of the constituency assistants, but they are in departments right now, there is a certain flow of work that can happen because they are part of that department and I think that there is another opinion that is needed from Cabinet as to whether – because they would have to support this as well. Maybe there are some opinions about why they feel the set-up should be the way it is, or it should not, it should go back to the House, but we have not done that piece yet either. Again, as you have said, Mr. Speaker, that there is the bigger piece, there are more political staff than just the constituency assistants. So we have this debate started, but I honestly do not feel we are at a point this evening where we are going to make any level of conclusion. I think there is a far number more pieces of work that we have to do.

MR. SPEAKER: My commentary, and you can accuse me of being opinionated, is surely to goodness if we can bring in policies here to deal with automobile allowances and to deal with the way that we go out and hire legal advice or receive legal advice, we certainly should be able to put forward a policy to help deal with the group of people who are our staff, and for the most part, probably run our constituency offices and the businesses that we do here.

The Chair is open for a suggestion in order to move; a motion or a suggestion. If it is a motion to accept one of the options, or is it a motion to reach out and bring back, craft some kind of a motion or allow somebody to make some approach to the Executive Branch of government to find out their views. Which comes first? Should we put forward a suggestion and ask government to look at it or should we go to government and ask them to look at some problems that have arisen here and to bring back an alternative?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just a suggestion, I am not going to make it as a motion. Perhaps the time – because we have done the work that we have done, and maybe this is what Ms Burke means, we go ahead and do a letter to the Executive Branch letting them know what we are dealing with and asking them to look at the same issue but also pointing out that in doing this we also realize there is a bigger question, and that bigger question is the question of the political staff, and send them the letter so that we at least get a sense from them that they see themselves being involved in this process at this point.

MR. SPEAKER: I am going to take that as a motion. Would somebody want to second the motion as put forward by Ms Michael that we approach the Executive Branch of government, let them look at some of the concerns that are being raised here, craft a letter to show the concerns, and ask for direction on how we should be able to move forward to resolve the situation?

MR. RIDGLEY: Seconded.

MR. SPEAKER: 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 is the Publication Scheme Amendments. Here again, this comes from the Members’ Compensation and Review Committee. There are a couple of situations here that deal with the declaration of attendance and the compensation report. The Clerk, I think, is the right one to bring this one forward and talk about what his suggestion is with how we do our reports for the Publication Scheme.

CLERK: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I think Commission members will remember there were some other miscellaneous type recommendations that the Members’ Compensation Review Committee made in their report. These were three of the things with respect to providing information to the general public.

One was MHAs Total Annual Compensation, including additional duties. They suggested we have copies of each of the individual MHAs annual Declarations of Attendance, the ones we do each year before January 31, and that detailed notes be applied to the Members’ Accountability and Disclosure Reports.

With respect to the first one, Total Annual Compensation, we have made some suggestions on the next page where we would amend our Publication Scheme and we would have, in essence, sort of two reports. We would have one which would detail the authorized salaries for the year. In the case of the House of Assembly positions, those are all in the act. They are either in 11(1) which is a general member, or 12(1) under various office holders. So those are what are authorized.

For Executive Council, because Members’ Compensation Review Committee did say it should include ministers, committee duties and so on, we would have to ask Executive Council for those as they are changed. They are established, I guess, by Minute of Council, but the actual payout is a different matter because, for instance, committee compensation, we will not know that until the end of the fiscal year. People may assume office positions halfway through a year and so on and so forth. The authorized salary pieces are not the same as the actuals. So we would do the salary in two different reports.

We wrote the Members’ Compensation Review Committee with respect to the Declarations of Attendance. If we took each member’s declaration, we would have to scan it, make a PDF file and post forty-eight files on the Web. So we asked if we could simply compile the information in table form, and they agreed, as long as the information is there. In that form, we would not need forty-eight separate PDF files for members’ declarations.

With respect to the Accountability and Disclosure Reports, now that members are using the Expense Claim Management System, there is detail on that by virtue of the way you enter the claims into the iExpense module. So I think that one is looked after. It is really the compensation report and the attendance report.

Because we are obligated under the act to have this Publication Scheme, if we decide to publish this information or that information, we really would need to amend the Publication Scheme, and that is what is recommended here. So we would add a 2.2 Total Annual Compensation Report, and a 2.3 on attendance.

I guess that is it, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary, questions, suggestions?

Seeing none, if there are no objections, I guess the motion could read that the Commission amends the House of Assembly Publication Scheme as written and as reported here within our binder and it has been duly noted and I trust it has been read by all members. Would somebody like to make that motion?

Moved by Ms Michael, seconded by Ms Burke that the Commission amends the House of Assembly Publication Scheme as written and as reported.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay’.

The motion is carried.

The next item would be Tab 5, the Automobile Allowance and Expense Policy. Here again, this has been brought forward at another meeting and we were asked to - the Commission was asked or the staff to bring back an expense policy that did not necessarily tie ourselves into the ministerial expense policy for automobiles. It was thought that the Speaker, the Leader of the Official Opposition and the Leader of the Third Party, because it being different from the executive of government and from government departments, that it should be a separate Automobile Allowance and Expense Policy. What you see written here is the same as a ministerial expense policy. It is identical, in fact, but it is separated by the fact that now it will be known as the House of Assembly Automobile Allowance and Expense Policy and we do not need to reference the ministerial policy every time that we talk about those three office holders.

Commentary?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: A question for clarification. Section 5.4 of the policy: "Officers who leave office for any reason shall retain their entitlement for a period of 3 months following the date of departure."

Could I ask what the rationale - now I know this has been taken from the ministerial policy but it seems like a strange thing to me. So I would like to know the rationale for that one?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I asked the same question and got it back because I thought in a case where the Speaker or the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Third Party left, I did not see why they should be still putting in expenses for gasoline and other fluids but it is my understanding that it refers only to the $8,000 automobile allowance. While you cannot submit expenses and receive compensation for them, the month that you leave and the month following will be reflective of what is remaining that you owe back to government on your $8,000 automobile allowance.

MS MICHAEL: Okay.

MR. SPEAKER: I do not know if that answers the member’s question.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: It does, but it is strange to have something written in a way that it is not clear what it means. Anybody reading that really would not know that explanation, just like I did not.

MR. SPEAKER: It is for the allowance only. We can certainly make changes to that and we can certainly make it much clearer.

The Clerk.

CLERK: If I could, not to jump ahead of members, I do not know the actual reason. It has been that way for many years in the ministerial policy. One assumes it is a certain capital investment or something that ministers make, or buying a car there may be insurance issues and so on. So I guess it is just transitional for the next three months as you leave the position.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Kennedy.

MR. KENNEDY: Just to say, my question, Mr. Speaker: Is this the same as the ministerial policy?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. KENNEDY: I look at 5.2, and all I can tell you is in the two-and-a-half years I have been a minister I have never claimed anything for gasoline and I understood that we were claiming labour costs. I am not aware of that ever having been done. I did not know it was in my ministerial policy.

MR. SPEAKER: It is. It is allowable that if you claim the allowance in a payable lump sum of $8,000 a year you are entitled to receive reimbursement for your gasoline, for your oil and other fluids with those items all being taxable as well; even your $8,000 and the gasoline that you burn carrying out your work as a minister or the Speaker or the Leader of the Opposition, if that is the option you choose. You either chose the option of getting a car allowance or to receive mileage. If you receive mileage, then you do not get anything other than the amount of mileage that you are entitled to be paid for.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I want to comment on two; the two that were just brought up. One is 5.2, Consumable Liquids, I think that we just need to say gasoline. I do not think we need to go into all the other areas. I will speak to what Minister Kennedy just said if it is in the ministerial policy maybe we are the only two ministers unaware of it, but I just think it is unnecessary for us, as the House of Assembly, to be getting into people who go for labour costs to get an oil change on their car. I think if we are saying it is the $8,000 plus gasoline, I think we do not need to mirror the ministerial policy and it is not because we are using - maybe some do and I am not aware of it, but I think that gasoline would be sufficient for 5.2.

Under the Discontinuance of the Automobile Allowance, the way it reads there it is almost like you could be out of here for three months and continue to claim for your mileage. I think that the day that you leave your position in the House of Assembly is the day that you are no longer eligible for either - whatever you have in the car allowance you repay effective that date, or you no longer put in any mileage. Again, we do not have to be tied to the ministerial policy. I know it is reflective there now, but I think that we can make those changes for those two.

MR. SPEAKER: It is certainly open to any motions that members want to put forward and put it to a vote.

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I also had 5.4 down; I did not understand it at all. I know there is some clarification here tonight in terms of it just refers to the $8,000. Whether you take it as lump sum or pro-rated over the term, you are still entitled to three months after leaving office?

MR. SPEAKER: I think it is the month that you leave. Is it one month after or two months after? It is obviously two months after.

The Clerk.

CLERK: It is three months. Now if you had taken the full annual amount upfront, $8,000, you would owe the balance of that. Whenever you leave plus three months, you would have to repay the balance and so on.

MR. RIDGLEY: Again, I am not sure of the ministerial policy; I never had occasion to use it. Mr. Speaker, if we are going to adopt ministerial policy, fine, but I really do not see it. I did a bit of asking around about it and the only rationale I was given was that sometimes a leader would take on a lease of a car given that, okay, I have to do this travelling and so on like that. They are given this bridging period of three months to either buy out the lease or do whatever. Maybe it makes sense, I am not sure. If we want to stick with that, that would be fine, but I would rephrase the second sentence there and instead of the officer must repay, that the amount would be recovered. In other words, if there is severance due or anything like that, not leave it to the discretion or the goodwill of the officer but that it would be recovered. In other words, it would be our initiative to recover that money rather than payout money and then say: By the way, you owe us money back. That may be a small point but -

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Just for members’ benefit, and I suppose since I am named here I should not be the one to bring it forward, but I do not use the automobile policy, getting the $8,000, I charge mileage for my driving so I feel that I am clear in suggesting it.

Members should keep in mind too that the $8,000 is a payment that is eighteen years old. This particular $8,000 was brought in eighteen years ago. We are talking about ministers and we are talking about either the Speaker or the Leader of the Third Party or the Leader of the Opposition, whoever wants to apply to take the automobile allowance. There is nobody getting rich here at taxpayers’ expense. Eight thousand dollars does not go a long way today for somebody going out and buying a car, and representing a rural area and carrying out their ministerial duties. Having to pay taxes on the $8,000, those people who choose that option realize about $4,500 or $5,000 a year for the wear and tear of their car, and for the depreciation, and for all the maintenance and upkeep except for gasoline. Members should be aware there is nobody getting rich here on those allowances. Just keep that in mind; we are certainly wide open for any suggestions or any motions.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: The other suggestion I would have on this is the fact that the policy needs to clearly outline that if you accept the car allowance of the $8,000 that you cannot claim mileage or rent-a-cars or whatever, other forms -

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS BURKE: Yes, but I did not think it was as clear as what it should be there.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS BURKE: Yes, I know. I heard she was reimbursed based on mileage claims not entitled to the $8,000 allowance or reimbursed with consumable liquids, but it does not say that they are also not allowed to rent cars or claim it in their districts as well. That is the difference here. If you get your $8,000 and you are using a car here and then you go home to your district, you cannot rent a car because you are in your district or claim mileage.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS BURKE: It should be reflected in the policy, shouldn’t it?

MR. SPEAKER: You cannot do both. I do not know where it is reflected, but I hear what you are saying.

The Clerk.

CLERK: The policy is, essentially, the ministerial policy with no changes, but if you remember when the Commission looked at this before Christmas the decision of the Commission was not refer to the ministerial policy, it would be a stand-alone policy; so that is what we have done.

The content, the provisions of the policy, are the same as the ministerial. It is 5.0 where we come to Option 1, Minister, that is where we make, I think, quite clear at the bottom of page 1: Where an officer chooses the automobile allowance, he or she is not eligible for reimbursement on Option 2, for example, mileage, when carrying out the duties of the office or the constituency duties as a member. Once you select Option 1, it is just like the ministers, you cannot then claim mileage whether as office holder or as MHA. That is what the ministerial policy says.

MS BURKE: Right. Also, if you claimed automobile allowance, you cannot say you got the automobile allowance and you cannot claim mileage but you can go rent a car. You cannot do that either or use other forms of public transportation. Once you take the $8,000 that is it, you claim your gasoline and it is over. I think that needs to be clearly stated.

CLERK: Again, ministers, under certain circumstances, can also rent cars –

MS BURKE: No, we cannot; not if we take the $8,000, we cannot.

CLERK: If you look at section 3 of this, the policy replaces certain sections of the ministerial expense reimbursement policy because we did not want to refer that policy, but sections 2.7, 2.8, 2.14 and 2.15 regarding rentals and use of taxis continue.

Under certain circumstances, ministers can do that - I realize it is not common, but there is provision in exceptional circumstances for ministers to do that. We simply took the ministerial policy and tried to adapt them for the three office holders.

MS BURKE: Can we take this policy for the purposes that we have here now, with the input that we are providing, how we would like to see it updated or changed or the way we think it would be more appropriate, can we take the policy with the direction given from the meeting here this evening and have this come back with the changes reflected? We did say that although it follows the ministerial policy, and that is what it was initially based on, I take this now as very much of a draft document that is the ministerial policy with our input, so it comes back with the changes that we feel are necessary.

MR. SPEAKER: Has the Clerk made note of the changes that members have put forward – members of the Commission have suggested?

CLERK: I have heard some, but it might be helpful, if there is consensus, to go through it again. I heard the Consumable Liquids.

MR. SPEAKER: So can we do that? Would members mind suggesting what they would like to see changed and we can bring it back then and have the document voted on, rather than dealing with each item that is brought forward here right now?

MS BURKE: Well, I think the two that we commented on were Consumable Liquids, gasoline, and that the Discontinuance of the Automobile Allowance, whether it is the allowance or you can claim your mileage ends on the day that you no longer hold office.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, so that would be 5.4 -

MS BURKE: 5.2 and 5.4.

MR. SPEAKER: - and 5.2. Changes in those to reflect your commentary?

MS BURKE: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any other changes that members want to see? I think that we should rewrite it and bring it back.

Not seeing any more, Mr. Clerk, are you clear on what is expected?

CLERK: We can delete those. If that is all it is –

MR. SPEAKER: Then we can have a motion made now?

CLERK: What I was about to say is there is not much need to rewrite and bring back. We would delete in section 5.2, paragraphs (b) to (e). That settles that. We would rewrite 5.4: Officers who leave office for any reason lose their automobile allowances as of the day they terminate, or something. It would be very easy to amend.

MS BURKE: Do we even need to have that there? It is like saying the day you leave office you can no longer claim hotels when you are in St. John’s. Well, you cannot because you are not a member. So I do not even think we need to say it ends the day you leave office.

MR. SPEAKER: So delete 5.4 is what you are saying?

MS BURKE: Yes, because if you are no longer a member, you are no longer a member.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. Members, the motion is – and I think that is the only two items up for discussion that I am hearing members have concern about. The motion is that under 5.2, Consumable Liquids, that we delete items (b), (c), (d), and (e) and delete completely 5.4.

The motion is made by Ms Burke and seconded by Mr. Ridgley.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay’.

The motion is carried.

I would not have gotten very far if I wanted to put transmission fluids in there.

The next item on the agenda is Constituency Duty Absence from the House. As members know, there is a real problem here with the way that this particular item was written in Justice Green’s report. It talked about members being absent from the House of Assembly and carrying out their duties but having to remain in the precincts of the House. Now that is fine if a member has a delegation in to meet with a minister or a St. John’s member, if you would, carrying out his own duties as an MHA and can stay within the precincts of the House but it does not work very well for rural members who may have to go to some important function in their district.

For the Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune or for the Member for Burgeo & La Poile and many other members, I will use those two as an example, for them to go back to their district to attend to a constituency duty which is important in carrying out their duties, then number one, it is impossible for them to be in the House of Assembly or be within the precincts of the House. There is a recommended minute here that we thought that maybe we should look at allowing members to carry out their duties and if it is warranted that members should be absent to do it with the authority of the Speaker getting involved and allowing the member to carry out their duties. Now, if members wanted to make it even more lax than that and have the member carry out his duties as he wants, than that is fine too, but we thought that there would be some safeguard around it where we could address it in the way that it was put forward by Chief Justice Green and to allow members to carry out their duties.

Commentary? Would the Clerk like to expand on what I have said here, because there might be other things as well?

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Just one small point, we have left a word out in the first paragraph of the directive. It really should read, for absolute clarity: A member who must be absent from the House of Assembly precincts in order to carry out constituency duties - because you are already permitted to carry out constituency duties within the precinct without any approval. So the word precinct got left out of that. We should amend it to: must be absent from the House of Assembly precincts, would request the approval.

MR. SPEAKER: I will tell you before we start discussion, if we decide to go this way, that the first thing that I would require if a member came to me to ask and to request would be a piece of correspondence from the Whip of whatever particular party that would allow the member the right to ask permission to leave, because it cannot be done in isolation of what is happening in caucuses or anything else. That would be the only way that I would entertain the idea, if it was done in consultation with the Whip.

Commentary? Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just a comment, and it does not mean it has to go in there or anything in wording, but I would not want anything like this to take away from the understanding of the House of how important it is as elected representatives to be in the House when the House is in session. That would be a concern that I would have. I do not know if we need to strengthen language to do that or it is just making note of it as we deal with it is sufficient. I really do believe that one of the key things that I take on as a person who is elected to represent my constituents is not to be at an event in the constituency. It would have to be a pretty important event to put it over and above having to sit in the House and represent them here. That would be my one concern.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I am quite comfortable with this, on the understanding that obviously it is going to be monitored by the Speaker. So it is not going to be at people’s personal discretion whether they feel this is appropriate or not, similar to what the Member for Quidi Vidi had just commented on.

The other thing is, as the Speaker, if you impose the policy it does not have to be a written policy but how you monitor it, that the Whip needs to have something in writing. I think that will build in the safeguards that are necessary here because if it is left to personal discretion, there are going to be all kinds of reasons why somebody needs to be out of the House or into their district. I think this policy, with how you monitor it, gives us the safeguards that it is all about.

MR. SPEAKER: I have had members approach me with some very important meetings and very important functions in their districts. I have said the fact: I cannot approve it, because the way it is written right now it is within the precincts of the House. I know what it is to represent a rural district and I know how important it is. Sometimes for people to think that because you are attending a meeting, you are there for personal reasons or political reasons rather than the reasons that you were elected, which to me is not the way it is. If people represent you, they expect you to be somewhere at important functions and to listen, and to hear and to represent them.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I would just comment, Mr. Speaker, that I agree, I think this is very practical. I agree with the Leader of the NDP, that our first and foremost obligation is to be in the House when the House is open.

MR. SPEAKER: Absolutely.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: I think we all recognize that and we take an oath to that effect and so on when we come here, but there are circumstances that do require – and by the way, that is in the best interest of your district as well. Sometimes there are occasions when being in your district is doing your job, more so than being in the House of Assembly, but under this proposal at least you get to vet this. It is not somebody at their own whim deciding what is important. It is some monitoring on an oversight. I think right now we do not have any opportunity to do that whatsoever. This is just creating an outlet, if it is justifiable under this policy to allow that. I think it is a practical remedy that we are proposing here.

MR. SPEAKER: If it happened and it was brought back to me to decide this, I would certainly keep a record of who went where. I would have no problem if the Commission asked for a report or an update on a monthly or an annual basis of what members were approved for absence and what the occasion was. I would have no problem whatsoever, and I think probably that it would police itself with members knowing that it would be made available and be made known.

Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Just one question. The record of attendance forms that we are required to fill out, under this particular scenario where a member would receive permission from the Speaker to be absent from the House, is that then recorded or would that then be recorded on your attendance forms?

MR. SPEAKER: I would think yes.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Well, if that is the case, there is still a level of accountability because those forms are going to be published on the House site. They are available to the media; they are available to the general public. So there is still an accountability there where an individual – it would be to their detriment to be absent repeatedly from the House for constituency functions.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

If not, I will read the recommended motion: Pursuant to 13(3.1) of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, the Commission approves the following Directive: A member who must be absent from the House of Assembly precincts in order to carry out constituency duties must request approval for that absence, in advance and in writing, from the Speaker. Where circumstances do not allow a member to make his or her request for an absence from the House of Assembly precincts in advance… Would that be the House of Assembly precincts in advance or the House of Assembly?

CLERK: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: It would be the House of Assembly precincts in advance?

CLERK: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: That request must be made, in writing, as soon as is practicable after that absence. Upon receipt of a request for an absence from the House of Assembly the Speaker shall determine whether or not the absence is justified and, in writing, approve or not approve that request.

The motion is made by –

Commentary?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: You did not read in precincts in number 3.

MR. SPEAKER: In number 3.

MS MICHAEL: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Upon receipt of a request for an absence from the House of Assembly precincts the Speaker shall determine whether or not the absence is justified and, in writing, approve or not approve that request.

The motion is made by Mr. Parsons and 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 is the Fourth Report of the Audit Committee to the House of Assembly Management Commission.

I will ask the Chair of the Audit Committee, Mr. Ridgley, if he would lead us through this report. As he goes through the reports and the recommendations I would suggest that if members want to, because it is fairly lengthy actually, just raise your hand and if the Chairman does not mind I can interrupt and have the question directed at the section that you are explaining or talking about to your - Mr. Parsons, who is the other member. Would you mind doing it in that way, Mr. Ridgley?

MR. RIDGLEY: That is fine, Mr. Speaker, yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Just briefly, Mr. Speaker.

The whole first page there basically recounts the fact that when I took over as Audit Committee Chair I took it upon myself to meet with the Comptroller General, the Auditor General, and the Clerk of the House just to get myself up to speed and to address any items that I thought maybe were outstanding or left dangling as part of the Audit Committee’s responsibilities. I will go down through them quickly. Some of them are fairly significant, I think. Most of them are just basic housekeeping items.

The first there on the bottom of page 1, which is not numbered but page 1, deals with the overtime and annual leave. It is the opinion of the Audit Committee that any accumulated overtime or annual leave should be dealt with - number one, should be paid out in value that it was earned. In other words, if somebody accumulates overtime in 2010 and they do not decide to take it until 2014 or 2000 whenever, that it be paid out at the value that it was earned at, because obviously, if you earn overtime now there could be raises that go on next year or the year after and then those hours become more valuable. It is the opinion of the Audit Committee that it should be paid out at the value at the time it is earned, and also that it be paid out within a specific time frame. In other words, whatever that might be, six months, a year or whatever, but that the Commission adopt or consider these proposals: number one, the value and number two, the time frame which is paid.

I do not know if there are any questions on that. I will just go on with –

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Well I agree with what the Member for St. John’s North just indicated, because I know when we were getting some information for budget purposes and that, we looked at the accrued overtime and annual leave expenditures. Based on what the Audit Committee has come back, as the Management Commission of the House of Assembly, do we have the jurisdiction to develop and implement a policy that may not necessarily be the same as government, or is there some way that because there is a government policy that we have to follow it without having the jurisdiction to make changes?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, certainly the Commission has the authority to make any policy. The way Green established matters, if we do not set up our own we follow government’s by default, but the Commission is free to establish any of its own.

MS BURKE: Okay, so my comment on that would be, based on what we understand here now, that we would certainly need a policy, but I guess the Commission here would have to provide some direction as to what it is we are – I am assuming we will want policy on the base of what the Audit Committee said. We would probably need to look at the numbers, what is the information that is leading us to this decision and what would be reasonable to address some of the concerns, because as I understand it now the overtime banks are building. If you come on and work, you will accumulate your overtime. You never have to clear it off the books; it can sit there until you retire. If you are here for twenty or thirty years and your salary increases by 80 or 90 per cent, we will pay out your overtime hours at a far higher rate than what you have ever earned it. There is a financial implication here and there is an unfairness based on it.

I would like to see some policy developed that would ensure that overtime is only accumulated to a certain level and it has to be used. I think that would probably be easier than trying to go back after somebody has been here thirty years and calculating their income and the accumulation. I think we should be able to clear the books at least annually for the annual leave or have a very minimal amount that somebody would be allowed to carry over, probably ten or twenty hours, something like that.

MR. SPEAKER: Just to add a further question to the Chair. While we can make and accept this recommendation, we can only do it within the confines of what we can control ourselves. How about a member in a department coming to the House of Assembly – we have no control over what the Department of Finance or the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services. How do we marry the two in order to clear off the –

Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Just a couple comments, including a response to that inquiry. We realize - and the Audit Committee members, by the way, do not consist of just politicians; Mr. Ridgley is there as the Chair and I am there as a representative of this Commission. The two other people who sit on the Audit Committee are well respected persons who were appointed by the Chief Justice of the Province who have chartered accountant backgrounds in public and private sector enterprise. They have heard from the Auditor General, they have heard about this issue, and they were absolutely astounded, would be the right word, that this existing policy should be as it is. They made it quite clear that they feel the Commission has the right to make its own policy. They made it quite clear that notwithstanding we are currently following government policy we ought to have our own and that we should undertake that review.

With regard to your inquiry, again, they made it quite clear that it is not for them or this Commission to decide how you deal with governmental employees or what they have accumulated when they came here. That would have to be dealt with, I would assume, under any existing government policy and when they accumulated it. Anybody who comes to work in the confines of the House of Assembly should know and would know what the policy is when they come here with respect to whatever that policy is that we should adopt.

MR. SPEAKER: While they are involved with the House of Assembly?

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Well, I guess my comments go right back to what Mr. Parsons just said. If we have a policy here in the House that limits the amount of overtime or the amount of time you are allowed to carry or what you are allowed to carry from year to year and someone is coming in, they are coming in knowing that, just like if they were going to a private company, no one is going to hold Aliant to say that the Department of Finance gave you these hours, you have to pay them out down the road. So, they would have to deal with that bank of overtime or whatever is owed to them and then come into their positions and follow the policies.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Osborne.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, just to come back to the point that Ms Burke was making with regard to what the timeline might be especially with the banking of the overtime. I mean at the moment, we staff cannot bank, for example, annual leave. They have to use up their annual leave within the fiscal year; isn’t that the case? Yes, it is the case with the political staff for sure.

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MS MICHAEL: It is not? Well my staff have been told that. Right now, I have people who are losing annual leave because they have not been able to use all their leave.

MR. SPEAKER: I stand to be corrected, but I think they have to use two weeks of their annual leave and they can carry the remainder over. They must use a minimum -

MS MICHAEL: Carry it over?

MR. SPEAKER: Carry it over, yes, but they must use a minimum of ten days.

MS MICHAEL: Well, surely to goodness, they have used a minimum of two weeks; I have to check that one out then with my staff.

MR. SPEAKER: It is my understanding, and Ms Lambe can correct me if I am wrong, or the Clerk.

CLERK: I should clarify a few things here because we are assuming this is very simple and it is not. When I met with the Audit Committee, we only talked about overtime, accrued overtime.

MR. RIDGLEY: Not annual leave?

CLERK: Not annual leave. We do not have annual leave in the House. No management personnel or non-union personnel in government have annual leave; they have paid leave. That is their sick bank. The point of it is you get paid leave and you use it – it is your sick leave, it is your annual leave, it is your family responsibility leave. The point is you are frugal in your vacation time so that you can build up the sick bank. Bargaining unit people still get sick leave as part of their collective agreement and they can accrue that to a maximum of 480 days, but non-bargaining unit people are on the paid leave plan. They do not take it all as holidays so they manage to build up some sick time.

Were we to pay it out periodically, as this suggests, you are saying no one would have any sick bank; they would simply come off the payroll once their time is used up. So overtime is a separate matter from what this calls annual leave, but in fact it is paid leave.

A couple of other points. The notion of transferring is not a matter of merely a problem for the other department. The department of government, if staff wanted to come here, would not have this policy. In fact, management, non-bargaining unit personnel, are expressly prohibited from being paid more than 10 per cent. So, a given employee who might have wanted to come here would be faced with this choice: the department they are coming from is not going to pay it out – they are not even permitted to – so they could come here, and would the Legislature pay it out? How would this money get paid out? We would be assuming that liability when they transfer here, or we would ask the department they are coming from pay it out, or as soon as they come here we would suddenly have this liability and we would pay it out for the privilege of getting this staffer. We are not operating totally in a vacuum. There are issues around this that we would have to consider.

The paying out - while I do not dispute the principle, you accrue overtime at $100 an hour, why would you be paid out at $500 an hour? The principle is there. There are a lot of complications around it. When the Auditor General brought this up in his 2009 report, the Executive Council response said that the Public Service Secretariat is currently reviewing the whole policy, including the payout and so on. So government is looking at this now. We could wait and see what they come up with, we could look at it ourselves, but it has to be, I think, restricted to overtime and not paid leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I have no problem with us looking at the overtime, but I think that what we need to do is based on the fact that the Audit Committee has brought this forward, I would like to see if we could strike a committee of members of the Management Commission who could look at the present policy, who could also have the information that is causing concern to the Audit Committee to do their own evaluation to be able to then connect with the people in the Public Service Secretariat who are working with it and to report back here with some options that we can look at.

My suggestion for having members of the Management Commission do it, as opposed to the staff, is I think that would be a fairer process than asking staff to sit back, review their own information and come forward with a policy that we feel is appropriate. I think that we could strike an ad hoc committee now of the Management Commission.

Knowing that, as the Clerk said, that the Public Service Commission is looking at this, they can consult with them, they can review what they feel are some of the options and have sufficient time to do their work and report back to us.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I entertain that particular motion, if you are going to put it in the form of a motion, I would like to hear the other speakers that indicated they wanted to speak.

Mr. Osborne.

MR. T. OSBORNE: The point I was going to make was made.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

Mr. Ridgley, do you have commentary on this particular item?

MR. RIDGLEY: Mr. Speaker, just to clarify, actually this discussion at the Audit Committee took place over two meetings, in the January meeting, of which I was not apart, and then at our meeting a couple of weeks ago. So the aspect of annual leave, the Clerk is right, at our meeting in February we did not discuss annual leave. We discussed overtime and the accumulation of overtime in the House. So that is all that we thought and it was discussed there at the Audit Committee: What about the rest of government and the public service and so on? We said we can only control or recommend control where we do have control. Obviously, we have nothing to do with the rest of the public service, but the recommendation was, and I assume the annual leave had come from the January meeting, but the recommendation really is essentially around overtime, not so much annual leave.

MR. SPEAKER: Is there further commentary before I put the motion that Ms Burke has suggested that we ask members to volunteer to serve on an ad hoc committee to work with the Public Service Secretariat? Would that be right Mr. Clerk?

CLERK: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: I guess meet with whomever in order to report back and make a recommendation on overtime only, Ms Burke?

MS BURKE: That is my recommendation.

MR. SPEAKER: On overtime only.

MR. RIDGLEY: Just to clarify, Mr. Speaker.

In a sense the Audit Committee has fulfilled its function, it made its recommendation. I am not sure in terms of being on this ad hoc committee whether it would be appropriate or not, whoever would be on that committee might ask: What is the thinking of the Audit Committee? I think we have made that fairly clear, that we are just concerned about value being paid out at value and being paid out in a timely fashion.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. Do members want to – do I see volunteers to serve on an ad hoc committee?

Ms Burke has volunteered.

MS BURKE: No, I am not volunteering.

MR. SPEAKER: Oh, okay, your hand is up for other reasons.

MS BURKE: Can we - has the PC Caucus put forward a name tomorrow? Because one of our members is not here right now and I think that if we are going volunteer or select someone to represent, we certainly need to consult with the member who is not here.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: The comment I would make is I do not think it is appropriate for either member of the Audit Committee to sit on the ad hoc committee. So that would exclude myself and Mr. Ridgley from participation.

MS BURKE: I disagree.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, I certainly do not see any conflict there because, in fact, I think somebody from the Audit Committee might be able to provide further insight and do it in an independent way and bring back a recommendation. There would be at least three people, I hope.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I will volunteer.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael will volunteer.

Hopefully, we will have somebody from the Opposition caucus and Ms Burke will bring back a name. Will we do this at the next meeting or will we put it in motion before that?

MS BURKE: I think we could put it in motion. We could slot the names in (inaudible)

MR. SPEAKER: And slot the names in after. Okay.

The motion is made. Would there be a seconder for that motion?

Seconded by Ms Michael.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay’.

The motion is carried.

CLERK: So we only have one name so far. Is that correct?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and we are going to have two more to come, probably.

CLERK: Okay.

MS BURKE: Each caucus will put forward (inaudible).

MR. SPEAKER: Each caucus will put forward a member. Are we saying that the members have to come from the Management Commission? I do not see why they would. They are only providing a report. That is why, I would think, sometimes if the two members from the Audit Committee, if they are interested, should not disqualify themselves by the mere fact that they are on the Audit Committee, because I think you could add some insight into –

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: You are right. We could appoint a member from each caucus. It could be a member of the Management Commission or not. The fact of the matter is, they are only reporting back to the Management Commission. There is no decision making made there anyway, so that seems fine.

MR. SPEAKER: Is Mr. Parsons okay with that?

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Yes, I have no problem. I will speak to the members of my caucus about it, and I have no problem volunteering for it myself. I just do not want there to be any perception that because I sit on the Audit Committee and the Audit Committee has asked for this review, that there might be some kind of conflict by sitting there.

MR. SPEAKER: Well I don’t, but members might have a different view.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: If we were talking about decisions that were affecting us in our jobs I would see it, but where we are talking about positions that do not affect us as individuals, then I do not see a conflict there for the members of the committee, personally.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is properly moved and seconded that we appoint an ad hoc committee and the names will be added by members getting a member for each caucus, Mr. Parsons and Ms Burke advising me or the Clerk. We can slot the names in.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay’.

The motion is carried.

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Please God, we will move a little more quickly through the other recommendations.

The second one there deals with supporting documentation. It was a difference of opinion between the Auditor General and the Clerk of the House in terms of what documentation would be required if a member was unable to, with his claim or her claim, supply the original documentation.

Rule 16.(5) says, "Where an original document is unavailable, a copy, photocopy, faxed copy or statement itemizing the expenditure may be accepted by the clerk upon provision of an explanation, in writing, for the absence of the original". The Clerk, quite rightly in my mind, interpreted e-mail correspondence to be acceptable.

When I brought this to the Auditor General he said: yes, okay, fine but I require something from the member. The Audit Committee is recommending to the commission that Rule 16 be amended to require that the explanation in writing actually come from the member, if the member is making the claim. In other words, a constituency assistant or executive assistant could not say my member - here is an itemization for that claim. It has to come from the member, and that was the Auditor General’s thoughts. So we are recommending to the committee that rule amendment be made.

Down through the others, Mr. Speaker, in terms of updating the files; again, there was difference of thought with respect to updating files predating 2006. Everyone agreed it would be a time consuming exercise, so we are simply saying that we as the Audit Committee agree with this, that it be done, but it be done as time permits and so on. It is not what we call a priority item.

The same thing with signing off on financial statements; the Auditor General wanted them done in a timely fashion. The Audit Committee agrees and looked at some of the reports and that the Officers of the House who are responsible for signing off on those financial statements so that the commission could review them quarterly, that they be signed off in a timely fashion.

The other one there, Compliance Audit, is just there for information purposes. The Auditor General had indicated to us that they would be doing a Compliance Audit. I asked him about that and they indicated that it would not actually happen much prior to January, 2011.

The briefing note format would actually require some action by the staff, or I believe the Management Commission or staff, and that is the adoption of the briefing note format as recommended in Appendix A, or - the appendix that was attached there. In other words - and again, I discussed this with the Comptroller General, this was his recommendation. They were concerned that any information that was available – in other words, members of the Commission should not have to ask whether or not legal counsel was requested or whether legal advice was requested on something. All information that is available should be made known in the briefing note format. So the Audit Committee simply recommended, as is indicated there on the bottom, "…agrees that a format similar to the one found in the appendix to the above-noted Report should be used." We discussed this with the Clerk at our last Audit Committee meeting. There were some reservations and so on, but that was the recommendation coming out of the Audit Committee, Mr. Speaker.

There was some discussion – I am sorry.

MS MICHAEL: Could I ask a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Sure, Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I would like to know: What is the difference between the briefing notes that are currently being used and what is being requested?

MR. RIDGLEY: I am going to defer to the Clerk on this one because he is much more familiar with them than I am. He has opinions on it.

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: If I could, I have opinions on most of these and I was not quite sure of the process we were following through, but some of these are decisions of the Commission and they have not even been discussed. So the Commission, if it is going to make these decisions, should have some basis beyond what is here in the Audit Committee report. I do not know how you want to handle it, Mr. Speaker, but we started from the supporting documentation right down.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. What I was planning on doing since some of them do not require motions, some of them do, and I think it is concluded now on the next page, if we will go back over them. I have made a note and where we need motions, like in order for the rule amendment, Rule 16, that will have to be done in the form of a motion and we can introduce those in –

MR. RIDGLEY: Okay, I will make that motion, Mr. Speaker, that Rule 16 be amended. Would that be in order?

MR. SPEAKER: Sure.

MR. RIDGLEY: To include that the explanation in writing actually be from the member.

MR. SPEAKER: Can somebody second that motion?

MS MICHAEL: I second the motion.

MR. SPEAKER: Moved by Mr. Ridgley, seconded by Ms Michael.

Commentary?

The Clerk.

CLERK: The Commission has all the authority in the world to do this; I just simply want you to understand what you are doing. The issue that brought this, that the AG chose to write in his management letter, was a constituency assistant explaining the absence of an invoice to our Corporate Members’ Services Division with a copy to the MHA she worked for, and that was insufficient for the Auditor General. So, if you proceed with this course of action - which I do not think is necessary and I have told the Audit Committee that - it means your constituency assistant or your EA will never be able to do that sort of piece of work for you. Corporate Members’ Services will have to get the e-mail directly from you.

Now, consider you have CAs as delegates for the electronic claims and management system, for many of you they are handling that. It does not matter to us but it means your assistants will not be able to write those e-mails, you will have to write it.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is anything to get too wrapped up in, I mean the bottom line is here, the practice of the Corporate services office right now anyway is that if a claim is filed on my behalf and there is something missing, my constituency assistant does not have the authority and do it on my behalf. Corporate services always comes back to me, as the member says: Will you give me an e-mail verifying what your constituency assistant just told us? So all we are asking here is to amend Rule 16 to make the policy fit what already is into practice. It is no big deal. The bottom line is: Why leave it to a CA to explain something if the member should be explaining it themselves? It is no big deal, you send an e-mail and it is done.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, I agree with Mr. Parsons. There is nothing that can go out that my signature is not on. Even when my EA puts in a claim for travel that she has done with me and it is done under the Leader’s travel, I have to sign it with her. So I have to sign everything anyway, and I agree with signing everything anyway.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

If not, the motion is that Rule 16 be amended to require that the explanation in writing referenced in the rule emanate from the member.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay’.

The motion is carried.

I do not think there is a motion needed for personnel files prior to 2006. That is just a reference. Signing off on financial statements, I do not think we need -

The Clerk.

CLERK: What I think the Auditor General said it was not the quarterly financial statements which we are obligated to bring to the Commission. The issue the Auditor General brought up were the monthly reports that we do internally in the Corporate & Members’ Services Division. That was what he did in his management letter. He might have brought the quarterly reports up at a meeting but his management letter was not on the quarterly report. We bring the quarterly reports to the Commission, as you know, four times a year.

MS MICHAEL: Right.

CLERK: We can certainly sign them off. We stand by them with the typical accountants’ qualifications, reasonable assurance and so on. So, it is not a problem to put a cover sheet on that certifying them. I will say, I thought it would have been implicit if we put them forward that we stood behind them, but we do not mind signing them quarterly.

MR. SPEAKER: We do not need a motion for that. It is just a direct -

CLERK: No, we will find a way to do it.

MR. SPEAKER: The compliance audit plan, we do not need a –

MR. RIDGLEY: That is just information.

MR. SPEAKER: That is just information.

The briefing note format might be something I think we would need a motion for because there are some concerns there in light of how we conduct our business and the nature of the things that might be looked for. I see Ms Michael raised the issue.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I asked the question of what exactly is the difference between what is being asked and what the practice is. I guess I would like to hear from the Clerk on that.

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Clerk.

CLERK: Generally, the Comptroller General, in his compliance review, choose to advise that he thinks we should do a separate template for the briefing note. What essentially he has done is he said we should have these standard headings, I guess, complement to a Cabinet Paper, Cabinet Paper has a standard template where all the headings show up whether they are applicable or not. If they are not applicable you simply say not applicable.

The concern I have is – well, there are a couple – it is a very rigid template. We would have a lot of not applicables; there are internal consultations, external consultations, legal considerations and so on. It does not matter if we have a page or two of not applicables, I guess, for some of our small issues. It is a format better for larger policy issues than some of the small things we have like appeals for sixty-day delayed claims.

Some of the template headings, it is not the information it is the headings he is talking about, are things that they are appropriate for Cabinet, which is conducted in camera with all that applies. Legal considerations, for instance, we may or may not choose to bring them out. We have the authority to consider them in camera. Sometimes it might be appropriate to include them, sometimes not.

It is not a problem with the template, I guess, it just seems we may have a lot of non-applicables all of the time. It is a rigid format. The recommendations, we use it for every issue no matter what. It just did not seem to be necessary.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

The motion is that the Commission adopt a briefing note format appended by the Comptroller General to the compliance review. I guess that is it in a nutshell; that is all I see here.

Do you want further explanation of that, Mr. Clerk?

CLERK: No.

MR. SPEAKER: Can somebody make the motion?

Made by Mr. Ridgley; seconded by Mr. Parsons.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay’.

The motion is carried.

Mr. Ridgley.

MR. RIDGLEY: Just to finalize, Mr. Speaker, the duplicate billing reports, there were three actually which were outstanding. They did come to our Audit Committee meeting but they came towards the end so there was really nothing of significance in them. We will have a look at them again at our next meeting. They were tabled towards the end of the meeting.

The final item there –

MR. SPEAKER: Before you move on Mr. Ridgley, would that be the same double billing reports that the Commission dealt with at the last meeting?

MR. RIDGLEY: No, Mr. Speaker, actually there were three which were never recorded that I could not find in minutes of this Commission’s meeting or of the report of the Audit Committee minutes. I went searching for them, and I understood that they did in fact come over from the Comptroller General, but I could not find them referenced in any of the minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay.

MR. RIDGLEY: They were for those periods indicated there.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, there was some discussion at the January meeting of the Audit Committee in terms of – it was briefly referenced how much, I will say, time and-or money was being spent to oversee the budget of the Legislature. I took this up with the Comptroller General and his thoughts were basically that the Legislature is one-third of 1 per cent of the provincial budget, but that he and his staff were spending anywhere from 20 to 25 to 30 per cent of their time auditing aspects of the Legislature.

I discussed it with the Clerk at our meeting and asked that he put together some general reports in terms of how much time and could money be saved in the oversight, responsibility of overseeing the Legislature and its offices. The Clerk’s report is attached there. In essence, it comes down to: No, you really cannot because all these offices that were added after Green are really essential and probably should have been here long ago in terms of purchasing and so on like that of the various functions.

I guess it is a matter of interest to the Commission and to the general public, I suppose, in terms of – basically it says, "In summary, although amendments to some of the Rules would have some impact on staffing requirements in CMS and, hence, administrative costs, much of its responsibility emanates from the Act and the implementation of good internal control practices." So, in essence, what was put in place is what should have been there in the beginning. There is still, I think, an inordinate amount of time and effort put into - for example, this is the only department of government which has its own Audit Committee, the Legislature.

Now again, perhaps, Mr. Speaker, we are at the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of what was there before, was at one end and now we have gone entirely to the other end. So maybe over time and through practice we will find expeditious means or more expeditious means of getting back to, I do not want to say normalcy now, but somewhere near normalcy in terms of the oversight of one-third of 1 per cent of the overall provincial budget.

I do thank the Clerk for his report. It is worth reading and gives us some good insights into actually what is happening presently. That would be it, Mr. Speaker. I am not sure, do I need to move the adoption of this report or it was done by a motion throughout?

MR. SPEAKER: I do not know if we need to move adoption; I do not think we have in the past. I think it was made and it was accepted -

MR. RIDGLEY: We have dealt with it - individual items.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, individual items here, but I would like to thank Mr. Ridgley and Mr. Parsons for their piece of work, their due diligence in carrying out the work of representing the Management Commission on the Audit Committee and you, Mr. Ridgley, for coming into this very quickly without serving either on the Commission or the Audit Committee before. I thank you, Sir, for the time and effort that you have put into this - it has obviously consumed a lot of your time - and interest and your expertise in dealing with such matters.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: I echo what you have just said, Mr. Speaker. I just would like, if I may, ask a question of the Clerk with regard to the report that was done with regard to the Legislature and the expenses et cetera. I found this very helpful by the way. Have you come down in numbers in the administrative staff because I thought at one point it was up in the twenties, I notice now it is seventeen?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: No, we have been this way for, I guess, the last two years.

MS MICHAEL: Okay, so it was never in the twenties?

CLERK: It was never up that high. Now we had some people seconded two or three years ago, but that would not have been on top of the seventeen.

MR. SPEAKER: Is there further commentary on the remainder of the report that the Clerk has put forward here in response of the request by the Audit Committee? If there is, or clarification, it is clearly stated there. If not, we will move on to the last item on the agenda.

Here again, it was a budget transfer and it was the ratification of an approval of transfer of funds. This particular approval was done in a way that the Management Commission agreed could be done, at a time when money was needed and a meeting was not scheduled immediately with the Management Commission. At that particular time, and at an earlier motion, we agreed that a person from the Opposition and at least two, three, four people be contacted, at least one from the government side and one from Opposition. Contact was made with Ms Burke, Mr. Parsons, Mr. Ridgley and Ms Jones for the transfer from subdivision 1.1.02.03 from the House Operations – Transportation & Communications to subdivision 3.1.01.10 to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer – Grants & Subsidies. The transfer in and out was the total of $9,100 and it was to pay for Grants and Subsidies for an election in the by-election, which was probably Terra Nova?

MS MICHAEL: The Straits & White Bay North.

MR. SPEAKER: No, The Straits & White Bay North. So, the Commission made the approval so we need it done now in a motion.

If somebody would move that the Commission ratifies the approval of budget transfer for the transfer of funds of $9,100 from House Operations – Transportation & Communications to the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer – Grants & Subsidies for an election subsidy.

Made by Ms Michael; seconded by Mr. Parsons.

Further commentary?

All those in favour, ‘aye’.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Aye.

MR. SPEAKER: All those against, ‘nay’.

The motion is carried.

That being the end of the business as written for this Management Commission meeting, I thank members and I thank staff for remaining after a long day’s work and completing further business of the House of Assembly.

This meeting is now adjourned.