Senators could receive house calls as part of Senate expense audit: report

Auditor General Michael Ferguson.

2014 could be another year of tumult for Canada's lowly senators.

While the RCMP continue to investigate the expenses of Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau, Auditor General Michael Ferguson will continue to scrutinize the financial statements of all the senators as part of his comprehensive audit.

According to documents obtained by Postmedia News, Ferguson's audit will be invasive and include "visits to their homes" and interviews under oath.

The documents note the Senate spending audit may include auditors visiting the places senators have declared as their primary residence in order to qualify for a $22,000-a-year housing allowance, and looking at spending outside the current period under review — April 2011 to March 2013 —if auditors have concerns about any senator.

Senators’ staff may be interviewed together or separately from their bosses, and possibly under oath.

An earlier Postmedia News article from December, indicated that some senators have also been asked to provide personal bank and credit card statements.

[ Related: Senate scandal tested federal political leaders in 2013 ]

The audit was ordered in June following a Senate report which suggested that Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau and former Liberal senator Mac Harb may have erroneously claimed expenses.

"This next step is actually to make sure [the scandal] doesn’t happen again and also indicates to the Canadian public that we are very serious about managing taxpayers’ dollars," then-Conservative leader in the Senate Marjory LeBreton told Global News at the time.

"I’m sure at the end of the day, the Canadian taxpayer will be well satisfied and also the institution of the Senate will have started to recover some of its credibility."

[ Related: Political analysts try to predict Stephen Harper’s 2014 ]

Ferguson's final audit report is expected to be complete by the end of 2014.

Even before the results from that audit are revealed, however, a new poll suggests that senators have a long way to go before regaining the trust and admiration of the Canadian public.

According to a new Ipsos Reid poll, we don't put much value on the work senators do:

Most (69%) Canadians ‘disagree’ (34% strongly/35% somewhat) that ‘the Senate of Canada performs a necessary and useful political function’, compared to one in three (31%) who ‘agree’ (5% strongly/26% somewhat) that the Senate performs a useful function.

More news about the RCMP investigations; a comprehensive audit that could reveal more false expense claims; and a growing public aversion?

It looks like 2014 could be another challenging year for Canada's senators.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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