The first independent audit of the Senate since 2012 has raised questions on spending in Canada's upper house.
As noted by Blacklock's Reporter, Senate managers spent $95,000 hiring doormen and ushers without approval from legislators. The plainclothes guards were hired to open doors and direct visitors as the Senate moved into a temporary home in 2019.
The audit, costing nearly $100,000 itself, is set to be released to the public in August. Sen. Percy Downe (P.E.I.) said, “the objective of this audit was to ensure expenses complied with policies.” Contracting, Downe said, was “an area of interest” and noted that there were, “opportunities for improvement... in the area of information management and procurement policy clarification.”
Payments were made to a contractor, Arlington Group Inc., by instalments of $11,000 to $25,000. Rules for the Senate state that all contracts over $35,000 must be examined by lawmakers.
The audit looked at a selection of randomly chosen contracts that were paid from 2018 to 2019. Back in 2019 when the issue first made public headlines, Conservative Sen. Donald Plett (Man.) said, “I think it's great that people are opening doors for us but if I have to open half the doors myself, I can open the other half myself,” before adding, “I'm perplexed about how we only thought this was going to cost $24,000 and all of a sudden it's going to cost us $70,000 or $100,000. Let's be very careful here. We have rules.”
At the time, Liberal Sen. Jim Munson (Ont.) felt the ushers were a necessity, not only for the senators themselves, but for committee witnesses and visitors with mobility issues, telling the senate's long-term vision and planning committee:
At the end of the day, this is all about the common good. It's about security and it is about accessibility. Yesterday, with no ushers, I had two young Special Olympic athletes who had a difficult time getting into this building, getting into the Senate chamber. That's not acceptable.
According to a CBC survey of websites, automatic door-openers retail roughly between $1,000 to $1,500 before any installation fees.
This audit will also be the first since the Auditor General compiled a 2015 report titled Senators' Expenses.
That report suggested changes to the Parliament Of Canada Act to allow for routine federal audits, though the law was never changed.