An explosive report released yesterday by Nova Scotia’s auditor general shows members of all three provincial parties are involved in “irresponsible,” “inappropriate” and “pervasive” misuse of public money.
One MLA expensed $8,000 to install a generator in his home. Another spent $373 to fly a guest with him to Ottawa and that same day expensed $150 for three MP3 players.
Other expenses include $740 for an espresso coffee maker, $2,500 for a 40-inch LCD television, more than $13,000 for office furniture and $750 for a GPS unit.
The regulations — set by a group of MLAs to police themselves — were found to be so vague that not only were none of these expenses illegal, most weren’t even against the rules.
“The system enables misuse,” said auditor general Jacques Lapointe.
“(The rules) are so ambiguous and they are so poor, and they’re applied so badly, that it gets to the point where it’s hard to say a lot about any of these, even though it seems obvious to us that this is just wrong.”
The list of abuses rolls on for pages — one member expensed 11 computers in three years, one paid $1,260 to a parking lot company owned by their brother, and 28 members double-dipped at least once by filing expenses for things already covered by an allowance.
The review found many MLAs used expense accounts to make under-the-table payments to staff members. More than $185,000 was handed to staff over three years with none of it declared for tax purposes.
Lapointe said this likely violates federal tax laws and the province could be on the hook for back taxes.
Several MLAs, including Premier Darrell Dexter, admitted to having expenses named in the report. So far all have said they will give back the money.
Speaker Charlie Parker accepted all of the report’s recommendations. He vowed to make changes to clean up MLA finances, but refused to release the list of names of who had misused public money.