OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper did not ask if Leo Housakos was targeted by the auditor general for alleged inappropriate expense claims before nominating him as Speaker of the Senate, Housakos says.
And Housakos, before being nominated by Harper a month ago, didn’t think it was necessary to let him know that he was, in fact, named among 30 Senators accused of misusing taxpayer money.
“I did nothing wrong,” Housakos told The Canadian Press in an interview Friday. “Advise the prime minister about what? That we did an audit and they found two expense claims that weren’t allowed?”
Housakos said he is not obliged to talk to the Prime Minister’s Office about what goes on in the Senate.
“We are a chamber that is completely independent,” he said.
On Tuesday the auditor general is expected to release his widely anticipated report on his office’s audit of all of the country’s Senators’ expense claims.
Much of what’s in it has leaked to the media, however.
Ferguson’s report identifies $976,627 in questionable spending among 30 current and retired senators. Just five of those senators account for about $546,000 of the spending Ferguson identifies in the audit.
Nine past and present Senators have had their files transferred to the RCMP for review.
Housakos is not one of them, but Auditor General Michael Ferguson said he must repay $6,700 in questionable expenses.
The speaker said he disagrees with Ferguson and will appeal.
Harper’s spokeswoman Catherine Loubier refused to comment on Housakos’ appointment as speaker.
In an email she said “abusing taxpayer money is unacceptable,” and it’s the Senate that’s “responsible” to respond to the auditor general’s report.
Housakos said the Senate is trying to resolve the spending scandal “in a transparent way. We should be thanked by the population for our actions — not accused. We are not hiding anything.”
He added that Ferguson’s investigation cost taxpayers $20 million and discovered less than one million in alleged inappropriate expenses.
“That’s not a lot,” he said.
Ferguson also fingered Claude Carignan, leader of the government in the Senate, for $3,000 in questionable spending and Senate Opposition Leader James Cowan for $10,000.
Melanie Marquis, The Canadian Press