"Following careful consideration, the Auditor General will not be invited to conduct a performance audit of the House of Commons. According to the Auditor General’s Act, the proposed audit would go beyond the scope of the Auditor General’s mandate, which allows her to audit government departments and various Crown agencies as identified in the Act, but does not include the legislative branch, which includes the House of Commons and its Administration."
That sounded like a firm no to me. Unfortunately, Canadian taxpayers felt otherwise; fully 85% of Canadians polled stated that they were concerned about their MPs' refusal to let Ms. Fraser audit their books despite the Board's reassurances that their books were audited.
Today's (June 15th, 2010) press release took a different tone, likely reflecting (for a change) what Canadians want from those they elect:
"Having considered the key points raised in that meeting, as well as the assurances provided by the Auditor General as to the process her Office would follow in doing the audit, the Board has decided to invite the Auditor General to undertake an audit of the House Administration and to grant her access to the House of Commons and its records."
Now that's more like it.
In looking through the Board's website, I found this interesting line:
"The Board of Internal Economy is committed to being transparent about the financial and operating matters of the House of Commons."
They should have added "...only when forced by public opinion".
Unfortunately, Ms. Fraser will only be spot-checking certain expenditures made by MPs and will only expand her audit to include all MPs if significant wrongdoing is found. As the rules stand now, any MP that is found in breach of the expenditure rules are forced to pay back the House, unfortunately, because the Board of Internal Economy meets in camera (in private), the identity of the offending MP is kept secret. Canadians had hoped that secrecy would not be an issue if Ms. Fraser had found irregularities, however, she has already stated that her report will not name names. That approach leaves MPs with little to fret over during their three month summer break. I would also rather that she was doing a full audit rather than a performance audit but at least this exercise will accomplish something.