Auditor General

Stonewalling the Auditor General

According to the Canadian Press, B.C.’s clerk of the legislature Craig James is not happy with Auditor General John Doyle.

During a Victoria gathering 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 might be 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 Auditors which records are available and which records are not. If they could, audits would be of no value.

Audits 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 officers demonstrate that controls have been 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.

19 replies »

  1. The nonsense continues….bill this “clown” for the amount or amounts owing. This man's resignation is in order, and should be tendered immediately. You are “public servants” not people working for a private corporation….an obvious fact lost on most of these people.

    Any form of malfeasance, or corruption in any form governance, must be dealt with quickly and with the severity that befits the act. Use the proceeds of crime legislation to go after these clowns.


  2. It amazes me the sense of entitlement some of these folks have. They work for the taxpayers of British Columbia, we don't work for them. The money they spend is ours regardless of whether it's by MLAs,or bureaucrats. We have a right to know how our money is being spent. If a politician or civil servant balks at releasing financial information they we know they have something to hide.


  3. I truly hope that come May 15th the broom comes out and sweeps these self-important gas bags out with the trash. We truly need to have a thorough look at what these band of thieves have milked this province of in the time that they've been in control.


  4. To the civil servants who are pushing back and stonewalling the Liberals from completing the remainder of their crooked deals: GOOD FOR YOU!!! Please keep it up…history will look upon you kindly, like those who sheltered the Jews during World War 2.


  5. August 28,2012 reported by CP

    “James, who replaced MacMinn last year, told the committee he’s committed to full financial and political accountability under his watch.”
    James said his office has made great strides towards cleaning up the books and he intends on making the legislature a “shining model of accountability.”

    Yup…he's committed alright and shiny too.


  6. Let me tell you, cleaning up the books ain't rocket science but you have to want to do it and be prepared to let the chips fall where they may. Craig James lacks credibility to do that.


  7. James has much to answer for. Harry Neufeld, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) until June 2010, was an excellent and highly ethical public servant who headed the 'non-partisan' Elections BC organization for one term. He was eligable for a second term, however, under his leadership, Linda Johnson, the Deputy CEO prevented Colin Hansen from sending out pro-HST brochures to every household in BC during the HST Petition period. Hansen, and his Finance Ministry staff had forgotten to registered under the Recall and Initiative Act as opponents of the HST Petition, hence were prohibited by law from sending out those brochures, but were set to do it anyway. Ms. Johnson's letter to Hansen (under Heufeld's leadership) embarrassed the Minister, as the government had spent the best part of $1 million to produce the brochures and then had to throw them out. Neufeld's term ended only weeks later and despite his application for a second term, the Liberal government refused to reappoint him and, instead, appointed James to do their bidding. His first act was to block the Petition from being sent to the Legislature (after it was duly verified by Elections BC) by saying that a Business Coalition had launched a Court Challenge against the sucessful Petition on the basis that the HST was a Federal issue, not subject to Provincial Law. This was James doing the BC Liberals bidding. The following September, he oversaw a reorganization of Elections BC and, magically, Linda Johnson's position was eliminated and, after many years as a dedicated civil servant, she was pushed out – once again, he was doing the Liberals dirty work of getting back at a civil serrvant who was simply doing her job. James work 'on behalf' of the governing party continued until he was rewarded with the Clerk of the Assembly job – where he somehow got his predecessor, George McMinn a cool 'double dipping' gig as a consultant, drawing his (McMinn's) considerable pension plus a $250,000.00 per year contract for two years to offer ocassional advice. Now, what person without a conscious wouldn't like an arrangement like that. James is a Liberal hack in a civil servants cloak.


  8. Colin–

    While Mr. Neufeld was a BC Liberal Government appointee am I correct in my recollection that, unlike Mr. James, his appointment came after consultation with the Opposition?

    (and I very much agree with your assessment of Mr. Neufeld's perfomance as the CEO)



  9. CRA likes to look at “industry groups.” Servers, as a group, contractors, loggers, actors. Maybe they should be looking at civil servants, epecially those with perks and expense accounts where there is no required accountability.


  10. Norm,

    In my readings, it has been reported that Mr. James took his wife along because two tickets in economy class was less cost to the taxpayer than one ticket at business class.

    My question is this: if Mr. James can effectively discharge his duties after travelling economy, then why should the taxpayer even consider supporting his travel in the much more expensive business class?

    Given that my math training began in the '50's, I believe that two tickets in economy are much more expensive to the taxpayer than one ticket in economy. Has math changed that much?


  11. I don't know what is more despicable, a government that places compliant people in key positions or a person with questionable qualifications milking his good fortune for all it's worth.

    As I see it, our politicians have gotten too comfortable in assuming that they can write their own ticket in how and on what they can avail themselves of the taxpayers' money and their handpicked appointees share their views. Any attempt of accountability is seen as an affront of their stature as they perceive it.

    In other words, they are pigs at the trough and don't give a fig about what you or I think!


  12. My late mother worked for George MacMinn at his law office until they had a dispute – not her fault – and he fired her without notice and without severance. She had a hell of a time finding another job until a maverick lawyer hired her, noting her impeccable credentials and references – she had worked for several lawyers who went on to sit on the bench. He later told her that MacMinn had had her blackballed and she needed to keep a very low profile for awhile.


  13. What the hell was Christy thinking, offering him that kind of money for occasional advice?

    At the very least, he should sharpening pencils in his office, 9-to-5, Monday through Friday — preferably in an upright position.


  14. Yes, Mr. Heufeld was hired by an all party committee and was a unanimous selection. He wrote an excellent paper to the speaker in 2003 pointing out a number of shortcoming with the Recall and Iniative Act, which, of course, was ignored. The current CEO of Elections BC was also properly vetted before being hired, however the Liberals left James in the position throughout the cruicial timeframe during the HST Petition verification, the Recall attmpts and until the HST Mail in Referendum was completed. Many wondered (myself included) if he might have been there to do mischief during the referendum, but the rank and file people in Elections BC are exceptional individuals and James could do nothing but stand by and watch the HST be rejected by a majority of BC voters.


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