REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
has the honour to present its
On November 22, 2012, your Committee created a Subcommittee on Living Allowances to investigate media reports with respect to Senator Brazeau’s living allowances in the National Capital Region (NCR); to inquire into and report on all matters relating to living allowances in the NCR; and, as of December 6, 2012, to investigate media reports with respect to Senator Mac Harb’s living allowances in the NCR.
Your Subcommittee began its examination of Senator Harb’s living allowance claims with an internal review of all Senate policy instruments relating to Senators’ living and travel expenses. In keeping with its concurrent review of Senator Brazeau’s claims, your Subcommittee determined that the period of review be established as April 2011 to September 30, 2012. Documents relating to Senator Harb’s living and travel expense claims for this period of review were obtained by your Subcommittee.
Given the Subcommittee’s experience in conducting one claims review internally, internal analysis was not undertaken for Senator Harb’s claims. Rather, a contract was issued on January 3, 2013, for an examination of all claims and related documents for Senator Harb, dating back to April 2011.
Deloitte was asked to review the travel claims and supporting documentation to determine whether the travel occurred or could have occurred; to categorize the claims as appropriate, subject to reimbursement to the Receiver General, or subject to consideration and determination by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration; as well as to assess where the primary residence was located for Senator Harb. Deloitte conducted an examination of Senator Harb’s claims, for which their report is attached as an Appendix. Deloitte’s examination provides analyses of the claims and, using a variety of sources, the accountants were able to confirm with a high degree of accuracy Senator Harb’s locations during the period of review, that is from April 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012. This information is fundamental to our determination of Senator Harb’s primary residence.
In its report, Deloitte noted that, prior to the adoption of the Senators’ Travel Policy on June 5, 2012, a definition of primary residence did not appear in Senate policy instruments. Deloitte further noted that, “The regulations and guidelines applicable during the period of our review do not include criteria for determining primary residence.” Given this, Deloitte reported that they were “not able to assess the status of the primary residence declared by Senator Harb against existing regulations and guidelines.” However, they did conclude that all of the trips between the Senator’s respective primary and secondary residence “did take place or could have taken place.”
Your Committee acknowledges Deloitte’s observation regarding the absence of criteria for determining primary residence. It is nonetheless our conclusion that the Primary and Secondary Residence Declaration form in force during the scope of these investigations and signed by Senator Harb is amply clear, as is the purpose and intent of the guidelines (as of June 2012, policy) to reimburse living expenses. In summary, the Declaration requires Senators to affirm whether their primary residence is “within 100 kilometres from Parliament Hill” or is “more than 100 kilometres from Parliament Hill.” The purpose and intent of the policy instrument is to allow Senators, who do not have their home within 100 kilometres of Parliament Hill and would not be in Ottawa if it were not for the fact that they are Senators who must attend Senate business, to not incur additional costs for accommodations while in Ottawa to attend Senate business. To claim living expenses in the NCR, any residence owned or rented by a Senator must be a secondary residence, not the place where he or she ordinarily lives, for use by the Senator while in the NCR for Senate business. Your Subcommittee considers this language to be unambiguous and, plainly, if a Senator resides primarily in the NCR, he or she should not be claiming living expenses for the NCR.
Deloitte’s reports have been very helpful to our determination of the appropriateness of the living expense claims filed. Senator Harb was found to have spent approximately 21 percent of 549 days at his declared primary residence of Westmeath, with two additional identified day trips. Additionally, Senator Harb was found to use his Ottawa address for several official purposes, and his travel patterns were consistently Ottawa-Westmeath-Ottawa, denoting that Ottawa was his default or primary location.
It is therefore the conclusion of this Committee that, based on the evidence presented in the examination report, Senator Harb’s level of presence at his declared primary residence does not support such a declaration. It is contrary to the meaning of the word “primary” and to the purpose and intent of the provision of living allowance in the NCR.
Your Committee therefore recommends:
1. That Senator Harb be ordered to reimburse the Receiver General for Canada for any living and related mileage expenses reimbursed to him by the Senate of Canada for the period from April 1, 2011 to date with interest at prime rate plus one percent;
2. That an internal investigation of Senator Harb’s travel patterns and living expense claims be extended to the period prior to April 1, 2011; and
3. That expense claims submitted for reimbursement by Senator Harb be overseen by the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, from the date of the adoption of this report for a period not less than one year.
Your Committee would like to thank the members of the Subcommittee on Living Allowances in the NCR, Senators Marshall, Comeau and Campbell for their work on this examination.