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.