In the House: MLA expenses tap taxpayer and baffle B.C. auditor general

Doyle says deficit $520 million higher than B.C. Liberal claims

In case you hadnt heard, your tax dollars are missing.

A damning report released last month from John Doyle, B.C.s auditor general, blasts the provincial legislature for mismanaging its $63 million annual budget, which pays for MLA salaries and operational expenses.

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"There are significant deficiencies in the financial control and governance of the Legislative Assembly's financial affairs," writes Doyle. "As a result, I am unable to conclude if the Legislative Assemblys trial balance financial information is fairly stated."

Simply put, the books are so bungled Doyle doesn't know where your moneys being spent or how much is being wasted.

For example. In addition to salaries, MLAs charge taxpayers for travel and living expenses. In a section titled Lack of Supporting Documentation for Expenses, Doyles report lands several heavy blows.

"To ensure that funds are used appropriately, expensed amounts should be supported by documents such as receipts. This is a standard business procedure," he writes. "During my audit, I noted that the Legislative Assembly, which pays the Members of the Legislative Assemblys travel credit card balances, was consistently unable to provide documentation to support Members travel expenses."

In fiscal year 2011/2012, Premier Christy Clark, who collected $177,888 in salary, spent $78,123 on travel and $3,107 on living expenses. (Her office also racked up a $475,000 credit card bill.) Across the aisle, NDP leader Adrian Dix, MLA for VancouverKingsway, collected $150,974 in salary alongside $15,355 in living expenses and $44,431 for travel. These numbers are higher than other MLAs, but not by much. (For a complete list of Vancouver MLA salaries and expense totals, see bottom of webpage.)

Clark could not be reached for comment on this story. The Courier reached Dix by phone in Penticton. "As leader I travel all the time," he said. "Last year I think I went to 65 communities across B.C."

Fair enough. But forget about plane tickets and meals. What other costs do MLAs expense?

I would say almost nothing.

The Doyle report calls for greater transparency. In response, a bipartisan committee of MLAs has promised to post expenses online and hire additional staff to oversee financial control.

Overall, the government claims a $1.8 billion deficit for the 2011/12 fiscal year. Doyle disputes that number. Victoria, he says, doesnt follow Canadian Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). "If the summary financial statements were prepared fully in accordance with GAAP," Doyle told the CBC, "the recorded deficit for the year would have been $520 million higher at $2.36 billion."

With the next election nine months away, as B.C. Liberal poll numbers continue to fall, the political impact of the Doyle report is debatable. Past audits, including an almost-as-bad Doyle report in 2007, noted similar deficiencies yet Gordon Campbells Liberals won another majority in 2009.

One final note from the latest Doyle report, in the man's own words.

"During my audit I noted that approximately $2 million in Transitional Assistance payments made to former Members were misclassified and not included in publicly disclosed Members Compensation totals. These payments were paid to Members who had either completed a term in parliament and decided not to run again or were defeated in the 2009 general election."

Two million bucks of golden handshakes, hidden from public view. Your tax dollars at work.

Twitter: @MarkHasiuk

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Christy Clark, B.C. Liberal, Vancouver-Point Grey

MLA salary: $102,138

MLA travel: $2,534

Premier salary: $75,750

Premier allowance: 3,107

Premier travel: $75,589

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Adrian Dix, NDP, VancouverKingsway

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $15,355

Travel: $44,431

Allowance as Opposition Leader: $48,836

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Mabel Elmore, NDP, VancouverKensington

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $14,576

Travel: $20,456

Allowance as Deputy Chair of Committee: $6,307

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Kash Heed, B.C. Liberal, VancouverFraserview

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $8,094

Travel: $15,688

Additional salary: $363

--------------

Jenny Kwan, NDP, VancouverMount Pleasant

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $15,499

Travel: $29,267

--------------

Margaret MacDiarmid, B.C. Liberal, VancouverFairview

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $7,517

Travel: $6,452

Allowance as Parliamentary Secretary: $7,451

Minister salary: $25,395

Minister allowance: $7,667

Minister travel: $6,839

--------------

Mary McNeil, B.C. Liberal, VancouverFalse Creek

MLA salary: $102,138

Travel: $3,040

Minister salary: $46,901

Minister allowance: $17,082

Minister travel: $21,662

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Shane Simpson, NDP, VancouverHastings

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $16,898

Travel: $22,225

Allowance as Opposition Chair: $20,426

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Moira Stilwell, B.C. Liberal, VancouverLangara

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $14,857

Travel: $36,171

Allowance as Parliamentary Secretary: $15,321

Additional salary: $3,530

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Colin Hansen, B.C. Liberal, VancouverQuilchena

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $15,965

Travel: $18,287

Allowance as Committee Chair: $9,460

Minister salary: $5,191

Minister allowance: $194

Minister travel: $768

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Spencer Chandra Herbert, NDP, VancouverWest End

MLA salary: $102,138

Allowance: $15,824

Travel: $20,070

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