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Nanaimo MLAs call for government transparency

Nanaimo MLAs are all for transparency when it comes to B.C.’s Legislative Assembly’s financial and operational activities.

Nanaimo’s three MLAs are all for transparency when it comes to B.C.’s Legislative Assembly’s financial and operational activities.

The Legislative Assembly Management Committee came under fire in a July 26 report from auditor general John Doyle that raised concerns regarding the Legislature’s financial affairs.

A 2007 audit of the financial framework of the assembly identified a number of areas for improvement such as spending, general accounting, internal controls, data management and public reporting.

But recommendations for improvements were never implemented.

“Had the Legislative Assembly implemented the recommendations made in the 2007 report, the results of this most recent audit work would likely have been much more positive,” wrote Doyle in his report.

In response to the report, the committee met Tuesday and announced all recommendations in the 2007 report will be implemented.

Other actions taken by the committee include: quarterly MLA expense reports to be posted online; in camera only when needed; and the hiring of a executive financial officer and two employees to improve financial controls.

Doug Routley, Nanaimo-North Cowichan NDP MLA, said the committee’s announcement is a little late and doesn’t reflect positively on the management of the B.C. legislature.

“The auditor general’s report certainly identified some serious issues around accounting,” he said. “As individual MLAs we’re expected to account for our expenses and I operated under the assumption that would be the same for the Legislative Assembly. Whenever there is a lack of transparency it always ends up a problem.”

Leonard Krog, Nanaimo NDP MLA, hopes the committee’s decisions are followed through in a timely fashion.

“I think everybody is happy with more transparency, but I don’t think the public should have the impression we’re spending money wildly on our credit cards and not accounting for it,” he said. “If anyone wants to look through the accounting records of my constituency office, I’d welcome it.”

He said the auditor general’s report is embarrassing and the problems need to be solved quickly.

“There are important issues facing British Columbians and they should be confident MLAs are running their offices, paying the bills and not using the money for any untoward purposes.

“There is no evidence anyone has used any money improperly, but you should be running a tighter ship.”

Ron Cantelon, Parksville-Qualicum Liberal MLA, said there is no reason not to disclose MLA expenses.

“The allegation that we don’t produce receipts is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s a big tempest in a teapot because we don’t have the latitude to abuse the system. Spending is strictly controlled.”

Cantelon does have some concerns that some information might lead to disclosing the salaries of staff members, but he is all for transparency when it comes to his expenses.

“We keep a simple ledger book for expenses and I’d be happy to have it audited,” he said.