Auditor General

The lady doth protest too much

Liberal friendly media munchkins are worried about the prospect of an independent investigation of questionable activities by Legislative officers. They’ve already done a coordinated attack on Speaker Darryl Plecas and his assistant Alan Mullen for noting potential fraud, gathering evidence and calling police.

Now, we see an effort to keep outsiders from being hired for an in-depth forensic review of spending at the Legislative Assembly.

We can only wonder why.

Postmedia’s Rob Shaw, like Vaughn Palmer, provided an uncritical platform to Auditor General Carol Bellringer for defence of her consistent failure to notice gaping cracks in the system of financial management at the BC Legislature.

VICTORIA — B.C.’s auditor general says she’s disappointed Speaker Darryl Plecas didn’t tell her about alleged misspending in the legislature and is unhappy that MLAs are hiring an auditor from another province to review the situation…

“To not have their support is a problem,” Bellringer said of MLAs. “I did not see that coming. I don’t know why they reached that decision.

“Now that it is out there, the part I don’t understand is having kept it from our office, they are now suggesting I can’t do an audit of what’s been revealed…

“I’m not trying to deflect responsibility but there is a lack of clarity around I should have somehow been aware of everything going on in the legislature,” said Bellringer… 

“The report is listing a number of abuses of public monies,” she said. “It’s a good thing that it’s being looked into. There is an example of misspending and clearly some poor oversight.”

But she said it was not acceptable for Plecas to keep her office in the dark for the past year while he’s been investigating the matter…

“The minute there was any concern we should have been brought in,” she said.

Bellringer said disputed claims over travel, benefits and expenses by James and Lenz are the responsibility of MLAs and not necessarily the kind of thing her office would catch…

“We do a financial statement audit on an annual basis, that’s not going to cover something like this,” she said.

Ms. Bellringer fails to say that competent auditors do look for misspending, particularly when there is, in her words, “clearly some poor oversight.”

Previous AG John Doyle issued strong warnings about inadequate financial management that allowed, among other questionable transactions, secret 6-figure cash payments to insiders at the Legislature. Despite those warnings, Bellringer didn’t determine if the same people were still taking advantage of their positions.

Bellringer says they only do a financial statement on an annual basis so they shouldn’t be expected to find “something like this.” In fact, most large organizations are subject to interim audits, which shorten completion time after the fiscal year ends.

These allow early detection of errors, ensure internal controls function continuously and create pressure on staff to perform accounting and oversight jobs effectively. Interim audits help eliminate mistakes and frauds.

Ms. Bellringer is another highly paid failure. She did not protect taxpayers by examining for fraud when warning signals had been published and recommended changes not made. Auditors have access that citizen watchdogs do not. She had a responsibility to thoroughly investigate the existence of deceptive practices.

Having failed, she complains that Darryl Plecas didn’t ask her to redo her work with more diligence. Press Gallery poodles help Ms. Bellringer and appear to be protecting a friendly associate instead of the public interest.

Look, when any organization suspects staff members may have been emptying their bank accounts, they don’t first call their auditors, they call the police.

The next call should be for Bellringer’s resignation.


Hats off to Dermod Travis at Integrity BC for solid work about the scandals at the Legislature.

Now, the effort is joined by Kris Sims of the Canadian Taxpayer Federation. Follow her Twitter thread about Craig James’s questionable spending and apparent misidentification of an expense item that turned out to be a costly wristwatch.

Categories: Auditor General, Ethics

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14 replies »

  1. For those who like to see the operating numbers that would have caused the normal person to say wait a minute, here considers these amounts.
    As reported by the Comptroller and Auditor generals, running the legislature and MLA salaries and expenses cost $505 million in fiscal 2004/05. By fiscal 2017/18 it cost about $1,500 millions.
    That was a staggering 300 % increase when nothing much changed in body count.

    For extra entertainment, the reported amount for fiscal 2011/12 was a mind blowing $2,834 millions.

    These are numbers that normal people would not ignore. So what could possibly explain how an Auditor General could do just that?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Former MLA Randy Hawes weighed in on Laila Yuile’s blog the other day to inform Laila and her readers that he had been a member of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) for four years and that to his recall not once were expense claims ever reviewed by LAMC. He wrote,

    “…Travel and related expenses don’t get onto LAMC’s agenda nor should they. LAMC members are MLAs and have no audit responsibility. We also do not design the vote 1 budget. Indeed, all budgets are staff created and are to fall generally in line with direction given from the legislature. All are scrutinized in the budget estimates process.
    If the Auditor General pushed the responsibility for examining travel and other expenses back onto LAMC, I would suggest that this is a deflection of where responsibility truly lies. LAMC has zero audit responsibility!”

    This despite the Legislative Assembly Management Committee Act giving the LAMC the duty for: “d) review of estimates of expenditure for the Legislative Assembly for Vote 1 including the preparation of forecasts and analyses of expenditures and commitments of the Legislative Assembly,”

    Auditor General Bellringer says claims over travel, benefits and expenses by James and Lenz are the responsibility of MLAs and not necessarily the kind of thing her office would catch.

    It appears nobody was minding the till.

    Which is why external forensic auditors are required to tell us what happened while the people we thought were looking were not.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that these people are clever in saying no one asked her which is what you’d say if you know the court system as evidenced by a legal mind on Insights two articles ago. I’d say she’s being coached by lawyers on what to say.
    Why would anyone in their right mind ask her during this investigation when she made so many mistakes during her tenure until it was an investigation was concluded.
    We ought to ask the RCMP to consider her a person of interest in their investigation. According to Lew this can be done.
    I’d like to know more from Lew how this can happen.
    Or the Green Party who no doubt are squirming with discomfort over being cast in the same light ought to ask the RCMP she be included in their investigation as well along with Linda Reid.
    MRs. Bellringer could of said at once she was sorry for her lack of due diligence, and by all means hire an Independent auditor, and stepped down.
    Leader Horgan has decided to side with keeping the audit in house with Ms. Bellringer so he now looks just as guilty in this mess as she looks. Its unheard of this level of complicity coming from from the Official Opposition party. They can only be very naive, dumb for the sake of establishing a social goodwill or guilty of what we don’t know of.
    Or perhaps they’ve become used to loving the sense of entitlement which comes with their work. You know a new suit, fame with media attention, an apparant popularity involved with being a Minister in Government . Simple minded things like that having an overwhelming appeal over their duties.
    Perhaps its just plain human failing to understand their responsibilites while in government?
    They may say where are the rules written down?
    Plead innocence to understanding the spirit of democracy?
    I hope the NDP lose in Nanaimo , and we have another election to hash this out in public, while vanquishing Post Media into bankruptcy.
    I’ve had it.

    Like

  4. My vote goes for an outside auditor. The current one was appointed by the B.C. Lieberals and just don’t trust her. She was around as auditor while this was going on. Previous work by John Doyle was quite different.

    In my opinion, she is part of the problem. Can’t trust her to do the job which needs to be done. If she didn’t catch it all on the first go around, how is she going to catch it on the second go round.

    Like

  5. Hugh, don’t wish disaster on us, please. Things in Nanaimo are just getting better. Of course as I write this, the NDP has been forecast to win.

    this might not be “hashed” out in an election. people frequently vote for how things effect them, as it can I find a doctor, can I get into hospital, does my kid get into the school I want them to, is my wage going up, can I hang onto my rental. The basics. Having watch politics in Europe and North America, and being old, you’d be surprised the number of governments in perfectly democratic countries which were corrupt and re elected.

    Now as to Post Media. They will continue to peddle what they do. The writers who cover politics have been in their sections too long. They ought to be rotated every 8 years. The local media and the local politicians have all become fairly cosy over the past 20/30 years. Post Media also leans to the right and to the interests of those who pay for the advertising. Don’t know who owns Post Media right now, but last year it was an American Hedge fund, owned 48% of it. Dont’ expect anything to change. If you want to know how corrupt this province is, eventually it will make it to the New York Times or an other eastern paper.

    They only let Sam Cooper write once in awhile to give everyone the impressions they’re doing something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My apologies, as I see in my comments you are right, and you never said she should be the subject of a police investigation. Sorry for any confusion I created.
      So I’ll say myself, in this lack of oversight she ought to be a person of interest. She was on watch duty, and its only reasonable to wonder.
      I was curiuos about what you said about during an RCMP investigation in the BC Rail case how one could have an influence on where the investigation goes.
      What happens here?

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      • She’ll have to take a seat while an RCMP investigation and a forensic audit proceeds despite, not because of, her diligence.

        Interesting that Doyle was canned for doing too much, and she’s under fire for doing too little. I prefer Doyle’s approach.

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  6. It is a worry that the Tax Payer more than likely does not have more than a fraction of the actual inner workings of Finances in the Speakers Office and the Story just continues to turn up more and more information of abuse of Public Funds.
    Where does it all end and how much has it cost over the past few decades?
    It is unbelievable that there were no rules in place and even more distressing that ThecClerk and S a A were approving each other’s expenses.
    The latest information offered up Randy Howes seems to really expose an almost Wild West like behavior where there was NO Oversight at all. Absolutely irresponsible and in fact derilect. How could this be?
    In an earlier Post I stated that if Premier Horgan was comfortable with the current AG Bellringer doing an Audit it made sense to me, now with all of the other information made available I am in full agreement that the Audit should be Independent. I wonder how Horgan feels about that now, I think it is important to ask him that question today when he does Media Interviews On the By Election.
    It is more than obvious that the whole mess in the Speakers Office has been a Stinking Pile of Garbage for possibly decades and the Tax Payer deserves several things, a speedy Independent Audit with a Full and Transparent Public Report, Accountability and Prosecution of the Offenders if Possible, Pay Back and Penalties which might be problematic, a total Restructure of the Rules and Oversight with Teeth, and an On Line Record of all Spending in the Speakers Office much like there is for MLAs.
    It also appears that The Legislature should be required to carry out an immediate Full Review of the B.C. Auditor Generals Office, of course I am only speculating but it appears there is something not quite right, not enough attention paid to detail and perhaps even some neglect.
    The Auditor General Roll should be expanded and there should be regular Reports with more Detail, this may require more employees but I believe the Funfs saved and Recovered would make it all worth while.
    Not sure if the B.C. Auditor would oversee Municipalities but I believe that is where there are “Lots of Bones Buried” and there are Hundreds of Millions wasted.
    Tax Payers have had enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There may not have been “rules” but a lot of this started back in the day, like a really, really long time ago, before the internet, Speaker of the Leg., who would have thought so long ago, they would need the rules we require today.

    There was a time MLAs all took the ferry to Victoria. Then a Premier decided to avoid the long line ups, the MLAs would be given priority passes. The hew and cry from the public was intense. Today they take heli jets and no one thinks anything of it. Most of the game rules for legislative bodies were implemented over a hundred years ago. They need to be brought up to date, because just as time has changed, so has the sense of entitlement of politicians.

    Once upon a time people concluded business deals with a hand shake. today, bring the legal team. it is interesting though back in the 1970s or 80s a business man did finalize a business deal with a handshake and the other reneged. It went to court and the Judge ruled, if it was customary for a group to finalize deals with a hand shake, as it was in this case, the hand shake deal stood. Now its, I’ll have my legal team go over this and get back to you. Times change and so should the rules. We can no longer rely on people’s good judgement, sense of fair play or honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just read on CBC that Bellringer is going to do the audit and says that it may take up to a year to get done. In my opinion if she is doing one, why not get an outside auditor to do one at the same time. This will hold her nose to the grindstone and hopefully we will finally know the extent of the damages done. If she goes it alone I foresee a complete whitewash.I feel Horgan is making a huge mistake here.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Bellringer said she “will be looking to its MLA members for direction about the scope of the audit.”
    Allow me to assist in her direction: UNCOVER FRAUD!

    And her comment: “why a rigorous system already in place did not pick up on alleged irregularities.”
    Because anyone who questioned the legitimacy of an expense was fired!

    And to add insult to injury, she muses: “figure out exactly what needs to be done and why, and what is the purpose of it.”
    The purpose? why?
    Because fraud is fraud!
    And it’s OUR money that is being wasted!

    I’ve now used up my quota of exclamation marks…sigh.

    Like

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