According to the Canadian Press, B.C.’s clerk of the legislature Craig James is not happy with Auditor General John Doyle. During a gathering in Victoria of Canadian legislative officers, a private meeting was broadcast on speakers throughout the building. We can only guess if one of the junior staff was seeking revenge by opening the audio channel. An insider told me recently that Liberals have been experiencing push-back from civil servants as the government rushes to complete arrangements for friends before their corrupt machine is retired:
There’s been this disconnect and boiling animosity between this place and the office of the auditor general in terms of the propriety of certain discussions and certain statements that have been made about various audits of this place,’ said James during debate at the legislature.
…Last summer, Doyle released an audit of the financial management of the legislature that concluded the building’s financial records were in such a state of disorder that he couldn’t conclude if money was being properly spent.
Doyle’s report found that MLA credit card bills were being paid without receipts and the legislative assembly hadn’t produced financial statements despite a 2007 recommendation from the previous auditor general…
James said he’s had a request from Doyle’s office for all the financial documents relating to the 2011-2012 financial year, at least 28,000 documents.
“We’re not interested in a fishing trip,” he said…
There is a good bit of irony here. James, talking to people from across the country who have no connection with the province and its government, dares to complain that John Doyle, an officer of the legislature pursuing duties assigned to him by statute, was wrong to talk to British Columbians about embarrassing details of sloppy financial administration by James, his colleagues and predecessors.
Craig James may be particularly sensitive because his own spending of government money has been questioned. Integrity BC had this to say about Mr. James recently in Ex-Chief Electoral Officer takes wife to Kenya on taxpayers’ tab:
British Columbians paid thousands of dollars for the former head of Elections BC, to take his wife on a business trip to Africa and for him to later stay at an exclusive private club in Washington, D.C. and an Arizona resort.
Records obtained by IntegrityBC via a freedom of information request also show Craig James – who has since been appointed clerk of British Columbia’s legislature – spent two-and-a-half times more on travel in 2010 than Harry Neufeld his predecessor at Elections BC did in the year prior.
James’s $43,295 bill for travel expenses between August 25th and December 12th, 2010 followed the introduction of new travel entitlements that he authorized for himself and senior employees at the government agency…
Craig James’ defensiveness is a warning sign. Organizations being audited cannot dictate to the Auditor which records are available and which records are not. If they could, the audits would have no value. Audits, by their nature, are fishing trips. Examiners first evaluate internal control systems to determine if they are adequate and functioning. They review the commitments and capability of people exercising authority. If the systems are lacking or the individuals not competent, auditors increase the extent of review. Past financial management by legislative managers demonstrate that controls have been woefully inadequate or non-existent.
If Craig James is worth the almost $30,000 a month he costs BC taxpayers, he would know that. Keep in mind that James was appointed Clerk of the Legislature in 2011 over NDP objections. He had previously been appointed without unanimous consent to head Elections BC. After being accused of partisan conduct, he whined,
“I have been frankly saddened by the vitriolic attacks that I and my office have been subjected to in the past week.”
Words and actions suggest that Craig James has a well developed sense of entitlement and wants no auditor challenging his right to rewards. That sets off alarm bells. Bells that have already been ringing as stonewalling BC Liberals aim to prevent John Doyle from doing his job.
BC Liberals have a history of ignoring generally accepted accounting principles when following the guidelines would present the government in a poor light. From the 2012 Public Accounts:
“…the Auditor General has expressed a qualified audit opinion and provided comments on areas he believes the financial statements have departed from Canadian GAAP.”
AG John Doyle faults Liberal financial management in many ways, in many departments and public agencies. Yet, this government and its supporters claim Liberals are “prudent fiscal managers.” The claims and the reality are thoroughly disconnected.