October 7, 2009        HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION      No. 19

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

MR. SPEAKER (Fitzgerald): I would like to welcome members of the House of Assembly Management Commission to this, our regular meeting. We will start the meeting, as we do every other meeting, by asking members present to identify themselves. I will start to my immediate left here, with the Deputy Speaker.

MR. T. OSBORNE: Tom Osborne, St. John’s South.

MR. KENNEDY: Jerome Kennedy, Minister of Finance, Member for Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

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

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Kelvin Parson, Member for Burgeo & LaPoile, and Opposition House Leader.

MS MICHAEL: Lorraine Michael, Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi and Leader of the third party.

MS KEEFE: Marie Keefe, Clerk’s Office.

CLERK: Bill MacKenzie, Clerk.

MS LAMBE: Marlene Lambe, Chief Financial Officer.

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

The first item on the agenda - and I might add that this meeting, in all likelihood, will conclude at 10:00 o’clock, and we have changed our agenda a little here to respond to some of the items on the agenda that need a response immediately. So the agenda will change somewhat from what is put forward in the binder that we have been provided with.

The first item on the agenda is the Report on an In Camera Decision. Since our last Management Commission meeting, which was June 24, we have held two in camera sessions, one on August 12 and another one on September 2, and by virtue of the Green Commission we are to report decisions from those in camera meetings.

The only decision that came from the in camera sessions, which were held to discuss legal matters and personnel matters, was that the August 12 in camera meeting the Commission directed the Clerk to write the Child and Youth Advocate inquiring as to the status of ongoing investigations by her office. That particular correspondence has been written, members of the Commission have been provided copies of that letter, and the response from the Child and Youth Advocate has been received by all members of the Commission as well.

The next item would be the approval of the minutes for the June 24, 2009 meeting. Members have had an opportunity to read the minutes of the June 24 meeting, and if there are no errors or omissions I would ask that somebody would move that we would adopt the minutes as written and circulated.

Moved by Ms Michael; seconded by Ms Burke.

All those in favour, ‘aye’.


MR. SPEAKER: Those against, ‘nay’.

The minutes are adopted as written.

On motion, minutes adopted as circulated.

MR. SPEAKER: The next item, under Tab 1, would be the Speaker’s Report. Here again, this is the Maximum Constituency Office Accommodation rule whereby in the House of Assembly Accountability and Integrity Act, a figure was put forward of $7,000 for constituency offices, for members to acquire constituency offices in their district. Once that particular cost went above $7,000 it would have to be reported at a House of Assembly Management Commission meeting. We have had three exceptions here. One is for the Member for Trinity North who has gone to public tender for an office accommodation, received one acceptable bid and that acceptable bid was for $18,080. Another exception would be for the Member for Grand Bank, the low bid on a public tender for office accommodations was $8,878.80. The other item on the agenda here would be a sign for an office that was not part of the original tender permitted under the standard signage policy for constituency offices by the hon. Member for Port de Grave to the cost of $183. We do not need motions or any acceptance. It is for reporting purposes only but the House will always entertain comment if anybody has comments to make, and I refer to Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

My light is not on so I do not know if I should go further?

MR. SPEAKER: I think the light on adjacent to you, that should be able to pick up your voice, and now yours is on.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, there it is. Okay, now it is.

It is not to argue or anything, it is just for clarification. I am just curious what the situation is in Trinity North that would make the cost so high because it is way beyond, you know, the allowance. I am just curious.

MR. SPEAKER: It is high, no doubt about that. I mean it is more than doubled than what Chief Justice Green had indicated he thought was an acceptable amount but we have accepted the process of public tender.


MR. SPEAKER: Members have gone to public tender and it is my understanding that that was the only acceptable tender that met the requirements in the Clarenville real estate book.


MR. SPEAKER: I do not know if the Clerk has anything to add further on that.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Not really. I consume it - there must be a tight market in Clarenville. They wanted to be in Clarenville of course and only received one bid. So, I guess it is just high rents in Clarenville these days.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Seeing none, the next item on the agenda is the Speaker’s Report - Travel by Other Modes. I guess the ordinary mode of travel here in the Province, when we look at travel for members would be by airlines and by car. Anything other than a commercial airline or by the member’s own transportation is considered travel by other modes. There are a number of expenditures here. Again, for reporting purposes, whereby members have had to charter aircraft or to seek boat transportation in order to serve their constituents and to carry out their duties, and I will just go down through the costs here.

The Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair spent $120 in a boat charter from Mary’s Harbour to Battle Harbour on July 15 to attend a function in her district. The hon. Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair spent $17,887.47 for travel by helicopter to some isolated communities in her district for meetings and community consultations. That figure again will sound high, but it is my understanding that the Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair ran into some weather difficulties, helicopter transportation is expensive. The helicopter pilot and the machine, and the member had to stay overnight and that is the result of weather, and hence the cost of $17,000.

The hon. Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, $1,166.16, again, aircraft charter from Harbour Breton to St. John’s return. The member has made contact with my office, and while this is looked as an aircraft charter it is not a chartered aircraft by the member. Apparently, there is a chartered aircraft that operates regularly from Harbour Breton to St. John’s. The member can hop on that particular chartered aircraft and, for a cost of $1,166, can travel to St. John’s and home again. So while it is a different mode of transportation and we might look at it as being costly, we are actually saving money, and her saving time by taking advantage of that chartered aircraft coming to St. John’s on a regular basis. So even though it is a chartered aircraft, it is not an aircraft chartered by the member. Again, the hon. Member for Fortune Bay-Cape la Hune, $158.20 for a chartered boat from Harbour Breton to Gaultois.

The hon. Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair, $2,764.60, an aircraft charter from Goose Bay to Charlottetown return, because of weather conditions in a certain part of her district she could not get to her district with a recognized, ordinary flight that went on a daily basis. The hon. Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair, $3,073.09, again, from Goose Bay to Mary’s Harbour and return on September 4 for a meeting in her district. The last item there for $650 will be deleted. That charter did not happen because of weather conditions.

Again, reporting purposes only. This has been approved by my office, by the Speaker’s Office, but if there are any comments or suggestions then the Chair would certainly welcome it.

Seeing none, the next item on the agenda – and we will move right down to Tab 2, item number 8.

CLERK: (Inaudible).


The Clerk.

CLERK: (Inaudible) the financial reports.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay, we will skip number 8 under Tab 2. I know this is confusing but we need some of those items addressed before the meeting concludes at 10:00 o’clock.

The next item on the agenda will be under Tab 3, number 11, Quarterly Financial Reports from April 1 to June 30, 2009.

I will ask the Clerk if he would take us through this particular item on the agenda and that way, in his explanation, he will probably clarify a lot of questions that might lead to be asked, should I do it.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is the standard quarterly financial report which the Commission has to look at. When we last met, June 24, of course, the first quarter was not complied. So this is the first chance we have had to do the first quarter of the year, April 1 to June 30. As always, we look at the statement of revenue and expenditure for the Legislature and this, for the first time, we have also included the Auditor General. The Auditor General in the past had not been included in these reports because he has his own processes in place, but at the Commission request we have included, in this one, and the other one is the individual member reports for the first quarter of the year.

So I will not go down through the entire Legislature one, but I will point out for the members who have gone through it, it is only up to June 30, but because we have had so many unanticipated, non-budgeted expenses in the professional services realm, we have tried in the footnotes to capture those as best we could. So, our sort of projections, which we have put in the last two columns and tired to explain in the footnotes, were actually made, I suppose, up to the end of September. So the statement is the end of June, but in trying to project where we may have overruns, the explanations in the footnotes were actually done right up to the end of September.

So I do not know if members want to question activity by activity as we go through or how best we should approach the matter.

MR. SPEAKER: Members have all had an opportunity, for the last four or five days, to have a copy of the agenda. Maybe instead of going through the agenda item by item and page by page, if members have some questions or comments that they want to ask regarding this report that they can make them now and we can address that particular question.

Maybe I can ask one for clarification here, and that would be under Members’ Resources. Just for clarification as is put forward here, is the, "Overruns related to the administrative support staff - Members’ Compensation Review Committee, offset by other savings" and that is looked at as number 1. I see no figures on either column there. I wonder if the Clerk or Marlene could explain to us why that would appear and why there are no figures there since there was - I understand that we have paid some monies out and there was some budgetary funding provided.

CLERK: Yes, thank you.

Yes, an administrative assistant has been provided to the Members’ Compensation Review Committee and that was not a budgeted expense, but we have other savings within the Salaries main object of the Members’ Resources activity. So there is no net overrun here. We have spent about $15,000 for administrative support. We had about $15,000 in savings. So we identified that there were extra unbudgeted expenses, this $15,000 for admin support, but because we had other savings there will not actually be an overrun in that main object. So, we identified that it was unbudgeted but there is no actual overrun.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Under the Administrative Support, the overrun that you anticipate under Professional Services you have identified why. Obviously, you are only looking as far as September because knowing what is on the books, it would seem to me there might continue to be overruns in that area. Is that correct?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, undoubtedly. This is the world as we know it as of September 30, and the next item on the agenda, on the revised agenda that we need to switch to, is the Budget Transfers. So we need to transfer some funds in to pay for this. But, undoubtedly, there will be yet more budget transfer requests through the fall, because the legal costs are still ongoing, yes.

MS MICHAEL: Yes, and I will speak to that further when we get to that, the specific item.

Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

I think it is well laid out here, members can see exactly what money is being spent. I think at first glance, when you look at the Members’ Resources there, that there should be a fair amount of savings in Members’ Resources when you look at the amount of monies that have been spent and the amount of monies that has been provided according to our House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act. Nobody sees any reason for concern or to raise any flags on that particular issue as well.

The next item on the agenda, we will move down to Tab 4, and it will be number 13, Budget Transfer Request. That will be the second item under Tab 4, and it is approval for transfer of funds as per the Transfer of Funds Policy. It is clearly laid out there, the monies that have spent. Most of it has been for legal fees and it is money that has not been budgeted for. It is money that we have had to, or we are expected to pay for some activities taken by the Commission, and other activities that have been carried on by the Statutory Offices. I ask the Clerk if he would walk us through this particular briefing note as well.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Transfer of Funds Policy that the Management Commission uses allows a Statutory Officer or the Clerk or the Chief Financial Officer to do certain transfers on their own, but anything out of the Allowances and Assistance account and Grants and Subsidies and some others, requires the Management Commission approval. That is the where, as the Speaker said just previously, there is significant savings projected. Members are not using all their resources as per the budget. So there are savings there but we always have to come to the Commission to transfer out of that main object.

The various professional fees, legal costs and so on, that we are all aware of and we have seen reported in the media in recent months, have all been unbudgeted. There have been a number of different activities with the Child and Youth Advocate Office, Citizens’ Rep Office and the House admin. The total as of, let’s say September 30, was $70,200 in invoiced professional services for which we have no budget. Those break out $43,700 for various professional fees within the Office of the Citizens’ Rep, and $26,500 within the Administrative Support. So the total is $70,200.

The third bullet breaks out the various invoices received to date for the Citizens’ Rep Office; $24,800 for the Citizens’ Rep to be represented in court respecting the application by the Child and Youth Advocate. The next two, $4,300 and $600 were legal support, legal counsel provided to staff of the Child and Youth Advocate Office as is provided for under the Whistleblower provisions of the accountability act. If staff are engaged, participating, involved in a Whistleblower investigation, they were eligible to ask for legal advice and that is what those two are.

The $4,200 referenced is for the Acting Citizens’ Rep, Mr. Noseworthy, because he had to be represented in court. The Child and Youth Advocate applied to the court to amend her original application such that Mr. Noseworthy was prohibited from proceeding with a Whistleblower investigation. The final one was another legal matter where the Citizens’ Rep had to defend himself from an application provided by another private citizen. All those fees are charged to the Office of the Citizens’ Representative.

The $26,500 is charged to Administrative Support. The House Administration will cover the cost for the Centre for Innovative Dispute Resolution for its investigation against the harassment charge. So, the total of those two amounts is $70,200.

The total Professional Services budget within the Administrative Support Activities, in the bottom bullet, $226,000, almost all of that is committed to various other expenses through the year. There is only a balance of $24,000 sort of un-earmarked, unallocated to use for unanticipated professional fees. So with that amount we can cover the Centre for Innovative Dispute Resolution invoice. So the total for this budget request is $70,200. There are sufficient savings in the Allowances and Assistance account. We would still anticipate significant savings there to cover any future professional fees and professional services costs, such as Ms Michael referenced, because we know there will be more in the fall. We will have to come back and seek another budget transfer in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Just for the record, we are talking about transfers of funds and so on and what you can and cannot anticipate in terms of expenditures. I notice all of these relate to legal fees for one thing or another and you referenced the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate.

Just for the record, has the House or the Management Commission, or anyone to your knowledge, had any correspondence from Ms Neville requesting that any legal fees be paid for her?


MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Okay. Because it is my understanding, she does have legal counsel but I am not sure if that has been requested by her at any point in time. So there are no calculations in here for whatever might happen in that regard as a future issue?

MR. SPEAKER: No. There has been no correspondence on that particular issue whatsoever and I think that was probably one of the things that we brought up at her in camera meeting when we discussed legal matters. There has been no request. So there is no need for us to provide further commentary, but for your information, no.

Seeing no other person is interested in making commentary, would the –

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

Just for further clarification, on the final bullet with regard to – no, the second last bullet - with regard to what is included in the $226,000, the allocations for the audit of the office. Was that the full audit because that was a new decision, or was it that it was an underestimated amount in the budget?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: That is an annual cost. So, no, there is nothing about the scale of the audit but we provide an annual fee to him every year for doing the audit.

MS MICHAEL: No, I guess what my question is: Why is the transfer of funds needed on that one if that was already in the budget? That is what I am asking. That is what I am –

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes. Well, the only transfer we need is actually this $26,500 to handle the invoice.


CLERK: We were just trying to make a point that even though we have the $226,000 most of it is earmarked for other purposes.

MS MICHAEL: Got it, okay.


MR. SPEAKER: Extra money, from what I understand, over and above the $226,000 that was not budgeted for.

Okay, a motion would be in order for the Commission to approve the transfer of funds as stated on the briefing note.

Made by Ms Michael, seconded by Mr. Kennedy, that the Commission approve the transfer of funds for items that are identified on the briefing note.

The next item, we will move down again to Tab 5, number 16 under Tab 5, Letters of Appeal over and above the sixty day deadline. As members are aware, that the House of Assembly Accountability and Integrity Act, and under the rules, clearly state that members must submit their invoices for payments within a sixty-day period in order to have them paid without coming to the Commission for approval. The first thing that a member does is write the Speaker. The Speaker does not have the authority to approve those particular invoices, even though they meet the test of what expenses should be incurred for, but it has to come back to the Commission.

We have two requests, one for the hon. Member for St. George’s-Stephenville East in the amount of $2,051.03, and another request from the Member for Placentia & St. Mary’s for $375.47. It has been determined that those expenses have been incurred by the member. It is determined that the expenses is a permitted expense under the act and the rules, and it does not exceed an expense amount or an allowance allocation permitted under the rules for what the expenses were incurred for. The problem here is that it is over the sixty-day period and we would need the Commission’s approval in order to pay those two particular outstanding amounts.

Commentary, questions?

Mr. Kennedy.

MR. KENNEDY: Just a point of clarification, Mr. Speaker. I think from the Member for Placentia & St. Mary’s we had the wrong amount. He put in the wrong amount in the first letter, did he?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, that is right. It was the wrong amount, and since that there has been another letter doing the correction, and the correction is for the figure that I just stated totalling $375.

MR. KENNEDY: That’s the September 30, 2009 letter?

MR. SPEAKER: That’s September 30, 2009 correspondence.

Seeing no commentary, would a member move that we would pay those two outstanding amounts to the tune of the expenses as indicated by me for those expenses that have been duly incurred?

Made by Mr. Parsons, seconded by Mr. Kennedy, that those two amounts would be paid and reimbursed to the two members as stated.

Those were the items that the Clerk had indicated that we need to deal with at this particular session. So we will move now back to – the Clerk just informed me that maybe we should not get into anything substantive if it is going to require a longer debate that is going to take us past the deadline, where members have other commitments.

If that is the case, when I introduce something here I would ask members to just say to me that we think this would require further discussion and we will gladly postpone it and move it on to another time, but the item that we had identified here was under Tab 2, which is a legal opinion under Automobile Allowances.

Mr. Kennedy.

MR. KENNEDY: Yes, I have to comment on that, Mr. Speaker.

This is the letter, we are talking about the – are we talking about the non-accountable allowance now or are we talking about the – this was the one that would affect you, the member for – so there are three people affected by this, the Leader of the Third Party.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, when I read this I saw that there was a claim of solicitor client privilege by the Comptroller General. As I mentioned to Mr. Parsons this morning, I have a real question as to whether or not the Comptroller General is the proper person to be claiming solicitor client privilege. He reports to the Minister of Finance. Now I am not imputing anything improper to the Comptroller General. He would operate on advice given to him by the lawyers or the Department of Justice.

I tried to contact the Department of Justice yesterday – but I have concerns about the Comptroller General. One, why the content of the letter? I am not aware - it was not discussed with me as to why there would be a claim of solicitor client privilege. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, if we have departments, and within the departments we have divisions and if those divisions can be claiming solicitor client privilege, it could lead to quite a lot of confusion. So I have asked my department, I spoke to the deputy minister, I think he was meeting with the Comptroller General this morning to see exactly what transpired and the basis for the claim of solicitor client privilege. Personally, I am not convinced that, one, a claim of solicitor client privilege is required in this case. We asked for the opinion, to see what the basis of that opinion is. Secondly, I am not convinced that the Comptroller General is the person to make that claim.

So, I am still of the opinion, subject to talking to Justice and reviewing the matter with my deputy minister, that first, that finance, the Minister of Finance would be the person who would make the claim if requests of solicitor client privilege. Secondly, I would like to know the basis for solicitor client privilege. Solicitor client privilege does not simply apply, Mr. Speaker, when we decide, well we do not want to give a piece of information. I am not saying - again, I would just like to know the basis here and it would seem to me that the Minister of Finance, if there is going to be a claim of solicitor client privilege, the Minister of Finance will be the one claiming it. So, I would like to check into that further.

MR. SPEAKER: Ms. Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you.

I am glad that Minister Kennedy brought that up. I am not a lawyer as he is, and of course he has been Minister of Justice as well, but I had the same question as a layperson when I read that and I would be happy to have more information on that before we move towards any kind of decision making on this and I am glad that Mr. Kennedy, as well as minister, has moved forward with that.

MR. SPEAKER: That was I think the intent that came out of our last meeting, that we would request a copy of the legal opinion, and that certainly is what we as a Commission would like to see in order to make decisions and make further recommendations. So, if Mr. Kennedy is going to follow that up and report back at our next meeting, then maybe we will put this particular topic on hold right now and try to bring some conclusion as to where we should go after and if we can get that particular decision.

MR. KENNEDY: (Inaudible) significant issue involved, I think that would be appropriate.

MR. SPEAKER: Do members agree? I see members nodding in agreement. So we will park the legal opinion regarding automobile allowance for the Leaders of the Opposition and the Third Party and the Speaker until a future meeting.

I call on the Clerk now, since we have been jumping all over the place here on this particular agenda, to see what we need next, or should we follow the agenda and get through what we can?

Okay, sensing that there is no real urgency we will continue to go where we left off. We will return again to Tab 1, item 6, Clerk’s Report - Authorizations for Furniture and Equipment Expenditures. Under Tab 1, since it is the Clerk’s Report I will let the Clerk report.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

This is just more or less a housekeeping item. You may remember that for small furniture items and so on, the Clerk was delegated authority to approve this for members. So since the last Commission meeting these are the two expenditures that I have approved, up the maximum of $500. These just tend to be matters which are not part of the standard furniture package for offices. So not a big deal, but I am obligated to report it to the Commission. So we can say that one is done, Mr. Speaker, unless there are some questions on it.

MR. SPEAKER: Questions, commentary?

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Just a question on the – wouldn’t an office chair and filing cabinets be part of the standard equipment?

MR. SPEAKER: The Clerk.

CLERK: Yes, they are. So I am not sure if it was a – there is probably a standard four-drawer one and this might have been an additional two-drawer one. The office chair must have been something different. I cannot remember the specifics, but obviously there is an office chair as part of the package. Maybe this was an additional chair or something, but it is – I do not remember the specifics, this was some time ago. I should point out as well that the mouse pad and the wrist pad, while it was on the invoice apparently, that is paid for ordinarily out of supplies. You do not need to come to the Clerk to get approval for a mouse pad.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

The next item on the agenda would be under Tab 2, Caucus Operational Funding Reports for 2008-2009. At our October 15, 2008 meeting, the Commission approved operational funding for each caucus, the Government Caucus, the Opposition Caucus, and the Third Party caucus, and from the Metrics recommendation it was accepted by the Commission that a report would be brought back to the Commission on those particular funds and how they were spent and provide an update for the Commission within ninety days at the end of each fiscal year. Enclosed, you will see that there is the Government Members’ Caucus, the Official Opposition Caucus, the Third Party caucus, and the Speaker’s Office have each submitted a report in compliance with direction given by the Commission, and those particular reports are - and there is a summary of expenditures and the amount of money that has been expended, and the amount and balance remaining in each particular account.

We have not set a clear policy on how this particular funding or this particular account should be spent, but at the last meeting members were asked to consult their caucuses and we would further try and pursue to bring about a policy whereby it would clear and concise for each individual caucus and each individual member to know what those particular funds should be spent on and to give the members that are looking after it in the caucuses some comfort in knowing that they were abiding by rules and regulations. In light of the fact that there has been no direct policy brought forward as yet, it is a process in the making. We have submitted the Summary of Expenditures for each caucus. They are hereby attached, and if there are any comments or questions, then by all means, we can entertain them now. This is for reporting purposes only by the way.

The Clerk.

CLERK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I just want to emphasize a couple of points the Speaker said. We brought a draft policy to the Commission at the last meeting and there were some concerns expressed. So we have gone back to caucuses to get some thoughts on the eligible and ineligible expenses. We actually have not received much feedback. So we did not feel we were prepared to bring the draft policy back to the Commission at this meeting. So we will try for it at the next meeting, but the way we are operating now there is no list of eligible or ineligible expenses. So, in fact, there is no guidance for the caucuses as to what the money can be spent on. So, to a certain extent, as the Speaker said, this is a work in progress. The requirement for report was not decided until October, halfway through the fiscal year, and we still did not provide a list of what was eligible and ineligible. So, once we get an approved policy through the Commission and we have a list of eligible and ineligible expenses, we will probably come up with a standard reporting format. We do not have a standard reporting format yet because there is really, as I say, no clear policy to guide it. So what we have done is aggregate the information we got into sort of standard categories and presented it in that fashion, but when we bring back the draft policy we will probably have a proposed reporting format for each caucus as well.

So, hopefully, we will have that next meeting.

MR. SPEAKER: Commentary?

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Even though we do not have criteria yet, just in the spirit of accountability for the third party caucus, under courier services and taxis people might say we spend a lot of money on couriers. In actual fact, we have some staff who do have to go out to meetings; one of our researchers and one other staff person who do not have cars. So we use taxis for them when they go to the various things in the city that they have to go to. So, it is not so much couriers, it is taxis for travel of staff.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Here again, this is for reporting purposes only. It relays to the general public that there is a bank account there for caucus operations and this is where the money is spent and the amounts of money that have been spent under each expenditure.

Mr. Parsons.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, I will just revert for a moment.

The report by the Clerk about the office expenditures, I am just wondering - I realize it is only for reporting but we did not get an explanation of the office chair thing that was raised by the Government House Leader. I am just wondering if the Clerk could undertake to provide us with the details so at least we are informed in the future what is or is not, and why it was not in there and so on, in case anyone asks us about it. I do not know the answer.

MR. SPEAKER: Sure, we will revert to that particular topic, and I ask the Clerk if he would further the explanation on that piece of furniture.

The Clerk.

CLERK: I may have to get that in the future. I am not sure we have it here with us but I will find the details on it. I could simply send it out as a letter to the members.

MR. SPEAKER: That settled, that particular matter, and it will be distributed to members. It will be made known as well, and it can be added into another meeting for clarification if somebody in the general public would want to know the answer to the particular question.

The Clerk has found it?

CLERK: Yes, if I could, Mr. Speaker. We have the invoice here now. It looks like this would have been particularly designed as a result of a workplace assessment for ergonomic purposes. It was a special chair beyond what we would ordinarily have as part of the office package. So a workplace assessment was done and these items were added, like the footstool and a better chair and so on. So that is what it was.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The next item on the agenda will be, again, under Tab 2, item 9, the Forensic Audit Report - Update. Just for members’ information and those that are watching, and I will ask the Clerk to take us through this, but just as an introductory. This, again, came out of the Green report where the suggestion was made to have a forensic audit for discretionary allowance under the discretionary allowance category for overpayments for the years 1996-97 to 2003 and 2004. The report has been submitted and has been made available. At the last meeting the Commission suggested that we go back and ask the Auditor General if he could provide any certainty as to members receiving overpayments and if there was any particular areas there that could be reasonably identified that monies were owed to the Crown by individuals.

I will ask the Clerk to expand on that and talk about the AG’s final submission and to get direction from the Commission after as where we should go and if we should bring this particular audit to some conclusion.

CLERK: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I note it is 9:52, so I suppose we only have five or six minutes left. I know this is an issue that is sensitive for Commission members, but we wrote to the Auditor General at the Commission’s request and he has confirmed that he cannot identify with any reasonable certainty the precise amounts of overpayments, if any, to particular members. He, I guess, says overpayments appear to exist but if we were to take recovery action we cannot say that a given MHA or former MHA owes us precisely this amount and seek recovery. So, there seems to be no legal means of us addressing the matter.

The Auditor General’s letter, which is attached here, it is dated July 22. He points out that on the matters that he had reasonable certainty where the excess payments for the four or five MHAs that he identified, recovery action is underway for them. In the double-billings that occurred, and recovery action is underway respecting those, but as this letter says, given the state of affairs in the House of the day, he cannot say with reasonable certainty, he cannot precisely identify the amounts. I suspect that is not what Commission members were hoping to hear but there is the cold, hard legal fact here, if recovery actions would be fruitless, it would simply be a waste of effort, is there any point in trying to pursue this anymore, given the Auditor General’s comments?

I say that, Mr. Speaker, I know with an eye to the clock, this may be a bigger issue than can be resolved in the next four or five minutes, but while I do not think it is what members would like to decide, I think we are soon at a point where we have to decide what to do with these matters instead of continually bringing them back here.

That is it, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: And just for further clarification, I mean anything that could be identified with reasonable certainty, which would be double-billing and excess allowances, has already been accounted for. So anything other than that, without reasonable certainty, I do not know where we go, or I do not know what the next move or direction is, and I seek guidance and comments from the Commission.

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: I guess one question is that if there has been recovery from the overpayments and double-billing, that I would like to see that information, what we have collected, what remains outstanding. Because it has been identified does not mean it has all been paid back in full.

I am sure this area will have more discussion but I still think that if there are any overpayments that were made, that there is any certainty attached to it, that discretionary payments were made that were not authorized, and even hearing the evening news last night, to know that there is still an ongoing criminal investigation into what is going on in this House, to know that we are here because of what has happened in the past and the Green report, that I think if there is any possibility that we can continue to identify or collect the money, or have people held accountable for this, that we need to continue to do it. I just do not feel that we are able to close it off, and that is just my opinion on it.

I know we are saying that what has been identified, whether it is excessive payments made under discretionary overpayments, I would like to see all of that, that we have identified; what efforts we have made to date, is the money coming back, has it all been paid back in full, where are we? I do not even know that information, before I say: Well, let’s close the door and move on.

MR. SPEAKER: I see members nodding.

Ms Michael.

MS MICHAEL: Just to put on the record, I am nodding to say that I do agree with Ms Burke. I do think we have to have further information. I did not hear the news last night so I am not aware of what the further criminal investigation is about either, but I think that should be publicly talked about here at the Management Commission, the degree to which – I mean, just at least what the overall focus of that criminal investigation is.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Well, one comment. I would hope that no one on this Commission is under investigation, because if we are under police investigation and sitting here making the decisions, it almost makes this a farce. So, you know, at a minimum, building on what Ms Michael just said, I would - and I did not realize there was an ongoing criminal investigation. In all fairness, I felt that when the charges had been laid and matters had proceeded to court that the issues had probably been dealt with at that point. Now that was probably an assumption I made being naïve, but I would like to have some level of confirmation that the ones who are now entrusted to sit here and make the decisions, that we are not under any active investigation.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Just for commentary, I guess. To my understanding there is no member – and here again, I say this because I know of activity that had taken place prior to now, but to the best of my knowledge there is no member of the House of Assembly right now under active investigation by the RNC, to the best of my knowledge. Not only is there not a member from the Commission but no member of the House of Assembly. I should not comment any further on where the police are going or what has been disclosed so far or privately, but that is the best of my understanding.

So, what I am hearing from members present is that members would like to have an update of what allowances, double-billings had occurred, what the payment schedules have been, who have paid it and who have not paid it. Well, who have not paid it; I guess we are not concerned of who have paid it.

Also, with the excess allowances, members would like an update on where those two particular items are with the collections. I am hearing that, and I am also hoping that maybe at the next meeting that members might get their mind around where we go further and how we do something here to make sure that if there is outstanding items that are owed to the Crown, how we go about, with reasonable assurances, that we can collect. We would need that guidance from Commission members and their wisdom on where we would go with that. Is that what Ms Burke is asking?

Ms Burke.

MS BURKE: Well, basically, and the other thing that I think is important, but we probably will not be able to capture those numbers because it is going to fall out of what we have here in front of us, is that if there have been overpayments on the discretionary with any level of certainty, they should be collected as well. So we would need – but that is probably another discussion, go back into this forensic audit, but right now we need what is there now that we know. When we look at this, there are some discretionary payments with certainty, not all of them, but the ones that it is certain that there is an overpayment made that was incorrect, that I think we need to address those as well, but I think we can park that discussion on this paper until we see some of this background information.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. Should we also include in that the numbers of those that have been identified without certainty, other than it is over and above the amount that would appear as to be the normal amount of money that was provided as discretionary allowances, because we are not talking about a lot of numbers here?

The Clerk.

CLERK: One of the issues that the Auditor General raises is, there may or may not be an overpayment within the discretionary component, that may still be within the overall annual allowance. That was one of his concerns. If it was just poor record keeping by the former director of financial information who signed an expense to discretionary instead of receipted and it is still within the overall annual constituency allowance block, than is there an overpayment therein? It is difficult. Having said that, we can have another look at it and see if there are some specifics to determine.

MR. SPEAKER: Further commentary?

Is the Clerk clear on what is being asked?

CLERK: Yes, I think so, yes.

MR. SPEAKER: With that – and I thank members for their indulgence. I thank staff as well, Ms Keefe and Ms Lambe, the Clerk. With that, this meeting is now open for adjournment.

It is moved by Ms Michael and seconded by Mr. Kennedy that this Management Commission meeting will now stand adjourned. The next meeting will be – again, we will survey the members when the agenda is – when we feel it deserves another meeting, and we will make contact and get members present at that particular time. I thank members.

On motion, meeting adjourned.