In a scathing report last week, the auditor general of British Columbia revealed that the Legislative Assembly account, which amounts to about $70 million per year, is not being managed to the same standards required of every other public body.
The legislative account covers legislative staff; the grounds keeping and maintenance of the legislative buildings; the operating expenses of the political party caucuses and the Independents’ legislative offices; MLAs’ constituency offices; and the travel expenses of individual MLAs. The account is supposed to be managed by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC), which is chaired by the Speaker and consists of the government and Opposition house leaders and caucus chairs. There is a huge degree of hypocrisy in the fact that the political leadership of the elected members of the Legislative Assembly would not hold themselves and the spending of all MLAs to the same high standard they hold the civil service. It is also extremely troubling that this committee hasn’t dealt with this issue since it was warned about it by the auditor general in 2007. This week LAMC finally met to address this issue, and it had a long, overdue conversation with the auditor general about what steps are needed to fix these problems. Among the promised changes will be public reporting of MLA expenses and structural changes to LAMC that will see it operate in a more public and accountable manner. Last September I started posting my travel expenses on my web page (www.bobsimpsonmla.ca), and I plan to start posting the expenses associated with both my legislative and constituency offices ahead of the timeline proposed by LAMC.
It’s important to note that the auditor general’s report does not suggest MLAs are misusing their office accounts or travel expenses. I believe the checks and balances are already in place to avoid misuse of these funds, and that’s why it shouldn’t be an issue for us to report on them in a transparent manner as soon as possible.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.