Committee
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Add search criteria
Results: 601 - 700 of 2195
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:32
Expand
Again, all I can say is we certainly understand that for those types of meetings it's important that the committee have all three avenues open, to have meetings in public, private, or in camera, depending on the nature of the discussion.
Collapse
View Nycole Turmel Profile
NDP (QC)
View Nycole Turmel Profile
2013-11-19 11:32
Expand
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
With some restrictions, we feel it is very clear that committees should be open to everyone in order to demonstrate transparency.
Thank you for your presentation. You raised several questions. I would like to go back to a point which concerns the procedure that affects the 98%. You talked about guidelines and criteria. Do the documents provided respect those criteria, or should our guidelines be reviewed so as to demonstrate that the activities we take part in really correspond with receipts? I am referring to what is going on in the Senate currently. Senators provide receipts, but are they really related to their mandate?
Collapse
Clyde MacLellan
View Clyde MacLellan Profile
Clyde MacLellan
2013-11-19 11:33
Expand
I will answer briefly.
In my observations in the 2012 report, when I talked about compliance, this referred to examining documents, including receipts tabled by parliamentarians for a certain activity, in order to ensure that rules were being respected. That is exactly the matter we examined. We gave a 94% compliance rating for the Senate. We found that the expenses related to activities were justified and in compliance with the rules. However, in certain cases, it was difficult to come to a conclusion, either because the documents were not provided, or because some information was not in the receipts, such as the description of the purpose of a meeting, or because a reply was recorded, etc.
Collapse
View Nycole Turmel Profile
NDP (QC)
View Nycole Turmel Profile
2013-11-19 11:35
Expand
I have a minute and a half left.
I will try to be brief.
In your document, in point 9, you discuss the role of the Auditor General. If there were an independent committee, should it play the same role, or, rather, have a different mandate in that regard?
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:35
Expand
In terms of the role of the Auditor General, that would be the role of an independent committee, which would be advisory or would assess certain situations and make decisions. That would be a very different role from the audit role. The audit role would be to come in after the fact to see if everything had been processed properly.
If you sort of drew a line, the independent committee would be on one side of the line and the auditors would be on the other side of the line, so the roles would be very different.
Collapse
View Nycole Turmel Profile
NDP (QC)
View Nycole Turmel Profile
2013-11-19 11:36
Expand
I have 30 seconds.
To your knowledge, are there any models, in the provinces or elsewhere, of what you submit as being the role of the Auditor General?
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:36
Expand
In the paper we presented, we identified a number of different jurisdictions that have undergone these types of changes. Some of them have put in place boards. Some of them have given authority to their auditor general. There are a lot of different models, and in the paper, we tried to identify the significant ones that should be considered.
Collapse
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Chair.
The real reason the committee is undertaking this study, frankly, is to see whether the current system works, whether it can be improved, or whether it should just be replaced.
Based on what you saw during your audit in 2012, were there any of what we and the general public would consider to be egregious examples of misspending by members of Parliament? We all know what happened in the U.K. with their expenses scandals there, with some members claiming money to build a moat around their castle. We've seen examples, in the U.K. and in Atlantic Canada, where members were using expense money, taxpayers' dollars, to furnish their own homes with electronics or television sets or computers, that type of thing.
In your audit, with the 1.5% non-compliance, did you find any example that you would consider to be as egregious as the examples I've just given you, or would they have been of a more minor nature? By that I mean, would they be mistakes made either inadvertently or administratively that could be corrected?
Were there any specific examples you could point to that would demonstrate that members of Parliament are misusing or abusing their expense money?
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:38
Expand
The direct answer to your question is no, we didn't see anything egregious.
Remember, though, what we did was select a sample, and within that sample, even though it was a low percentage, we did find a certain percentage where the documentation was not sufficient to support a particular expenditure item.
Collapse
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Had the documentation been sufficient, would you have had any problem with the claims that were made?
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:38
Expand
It would have depended on what the documentation said, what the documentation was. That is why we indicated we had a concern with that. In a situation where we don't have all the documentation, it is difficult for us to say whether the rules were entirely complied with.
Clyde, do you have a comment?
Collapse
Clyde MacLellan
View Clyde MacLellan Profile
Clyde MacLellan
2013-11-19 11:39
Expand
I think you are asking if there were any seriously egregious types of situations, for which you used examples from other jurisdictions. As the Auditor General indicated, we didn't find any of those. If we had, we would have reported them.
If documentation is sufficient to support a claim when we performed the work, we would be satisfied generally that it constitutes a valid expense, subject to it being reasonable, of course. If something were put forward that isn't for the purpose intended, we would not accept that type of transaction regardless of the kind of documentation behind it.
Collapse
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you for that.
You've done “random” audits. I guess that would be the best term, if I'm following you. In other words, you have not done a forensic audit at any time, whether of members’ expenses or in the Senate.
Are you recommending that if your audit capabilities were enhanced, you would like to see forensic audits of both the members’ and Senators' expenses?
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:40
Expand
The normal audit practice would be to do financial audits, compliance audits, performance audits, those types of audits. If those audits indicate there is a particular problem, then you have to look at whether a forensic audit is required, but a forensic audit wouldn't be the first type of audit you would go to. You would go to performance audits, financial audits, and compliance audits.
Collapse
View André Bellavance Profile
Ind. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Auditor General, your suggestions and observations are very relevant. Not that long ago, MPs and political parties wanted to make all decisions regarding the administration of their expenses behind closed door. Indeed, in 2010, when your predecessor, Ms. Fraser, asked to do an audit, the Bloc Québécois was the only party that accepted right away to divulge all of its expenses and be as transparent as possible. We can see that things evolved because I think that the population, as you said so well, no longer accepts that expenses be kept secret, since we are talking about taxpayers' money, their money. We are headed in the right direction.
However, I have questions on how the transparent governance you allude to would function. Is it really necessary to create another organization? We are already sending of all our invoices and supporting documents to the controller's office. Would it be possible to be totally transparent and divulge as much of this information as possible, while allowing the Office of the Auditor General to have the legal right to perform audits, either once a year or twice a year, with the necessary means? I am wondering about this hybrid system to provide greater transparency. Currently, we are divulging information by work station and this is on the Internet. That is already an improvement compared to what used to be done, but it seems to me that we can still improve this by providing more details and by allowing you to perform audits. A statutory report would really allow for recommendations and modifications, if need be, on certain practices that may still need to be improved.
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:43
Expand
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The model we are suggesting incorporates two aspects on the governance side. One is the aspect of independent audit. The other is the aspect of having some sort of independent body as well to help oversee the process.
I would say that model is very much the same type you would see in a large crown corporation or in any other large corporation where, for example, you would have an audit committee. That would be a committee that we as auditors could interact with to make sure we're sending messages and they understand the messages, and they could help whatever board is responsible to figure out how to manage these types of expenses.
The role of the independent body would be to help make sure that when we came in, our audit wouldn't find anything. That's where you want to be. You don't want to be in a situation where things are being processed and then you are relying on the audit to find things. You want to be in a position where the audit is really confirming that things are operating properly. That's why we think the system would be better if there were an independent advisory body on the side, processing things before the audit happened. So the two would be integral parts of improving governance.
Collapse
View André Bellavance Profile
Ind. (QC)
I am going to use them, Mr. Chair.
According to you, this independent organization should be made up of representatives from the public, people who, of course, would have particular expertise. It is clear to all of us that in the current situation, with the Board of Internal Economy, it is difficult for parliamentarians to remove their partisan hats when they are discussing things together.
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:45
Expand
We have indicated that we believe they need to be independent and they need to be appointed independently. I think you will find a couple other provinces where they have independent members sitting on a board. I believe in a couple of provinces the Chief Justice of the province appoints those people. So there should be a way to have independent people appointed.
Collapse
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
View Craig Scott Profile
2013-11-19 11:45
Expand
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Ferguson, for coming and also for your brief. Along with your remarks the brief is very helpful. It's essentially in accord with the NDP's motion to replace the Board of Internal Economy with some form of independent body, but also to draw from comparative experience on the whole transparency front and address the question of how we go about providing adequate disclosure of MPs' expenses.
The Scottish and the Alberta models are mentioned specifically in your brief, and they're both of great interest to us. As I understand them, they go much further than the much vaunted, proactive efforts of one of the parties around this table, well beyond hospitality and travel, and they include supporting documentation. Have you had a chance to look at the Alberta system, which you don't directly recommend but you suggest we look at closely? Would you recommend that as a system that would work here?
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:46
Expand
We haven't gone into either one of them in any detail. What we did as part of preparation for this meeting was look to see what's going on in other areas. We identified those two as areas that we think would be of interest to the committee to look at further, but I can't give you enough detail on it to really go any further.
Collapse
View Craig Scott Profile
NDP (ON)
View Craig Scott Profile
2013-11-19 11:47
Expand
What I would note is that it does include full supporting documentation, if I'm correct. That's something we would want to look at, which slides me quickly into the second question.
I'm very concerned that whatever system is put in place and is applicable to all MPs have adequate support. You've emphasized that as well. My question is simply this: would the Auditor General's office be in a position to assist in figuring out what the adequate levels would be compared to what we have now by way of House support? It would have to be much greater than what we have at the moment, I would assume.
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:47
Expand
Mr. Chair, in that type of situation, we always have to balance off being in a situation where we come in to audit a process that we have recommended be put in place. We certainly would be willing to answer some questions and provide some things that we think need to be considered, but anything that we do would have to be within the way that we do our normal work.
For example, we wouldn't be able to come in as a consultant and say, okay, here's the actual process that needs to be put in place, and then have to come along later to do an audit of whether or not the process is adequate. We'd have to make sure that we can maintain that independence.
Collapse
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
One minute? Thank you, Chair.
Mr. Ferguson, it's good to be with you in a different circumstance.
I have two quick things, Chair.
One is that I think it's pretty clear, at least from the Auditor General—please correct me if I'm misrepresenting your comments—that his comments very much underscore the idea of an independent body, that we need to keep going in that direction. I'm not seeing anything or hearing from anybody who is saying that we don't need to or that it's a bad idea. To hear that from our Auditor General I think is the greatest endorsement you could have.
The last thing I want to mention, Chair, in my own right as chair of the public accounts committee, which is responsible for all of the audits, working with the Auditor General on the audits that are done, is that these audits are things for the Canadian people. This has nothing to do, really, with internal government per se, and therefore in no way should we nickel or dime the Auditor General's budget. Whatever work we're asking his office to do beyond what he's currently doing, given the importance of the work he does and this, there should clearly be a top-up—separate money—for that.
We're probably talking, I don't know.... I won't throw out a number, but it will be a lot smaller than most items we deal with. But given its importance, I urge this committee not to consider asking the AG to do more with less. If we want them to do more, let's make sure they have the money to do it.
Thanks, Chair.
Collapse
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2013-11-19 11:50
Expand
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
This is an important topic we're discussing today, no question. Obviously transparency and accountability are very important topics. That's why we as a Conservative government have chosen to voluntarily disclose some of our expenses. Give credit to the Liberal Party for that as well. It's unfortunate that not all parties have followed that lead, but certainly it is important that we do look at this.
Having said that, I have some information here from when we heard from the clerk, Audrey O'Brien, about the current system. I just want to just go through that.
You talked about the 98.5% compliance that you saw. I know you've had a number of questions about this already, and have certainly indicated that it seems to compare quite favourably with other corporate audits or those kind of things that you've been a part of.
Having said that, Ms. O'Brien indicated to us that 21 staff are involved now in adjudicating members' expense claims, which seems to be a significant amount of resources put towards that to ensure it's done right and done thoroughly. She indicated that there were about 70,000 member payments on average in the fiscal year, and that in an average year, they also received about 20,000 calls or e-mails from members' offices. It obviously indicates there is a concerted effort on the part of members, or I'm sure at least the vast majority of members, to ensure that they're complying and that they're being thorough and doing a good job of reporting the expenses as they should be reported.
She also indicated that 4,365 regret letters were sent on average in a year to members advising about some modification that was made to an amount claimed, which obviously indicates they're doing a pretty thorough job of examining those claims.
I'll use myself as an example. Certainly we are very diligent. I have a great staff member who has a lot experience on the Hill who's very helpful in making sure my claims are done right. Of course, I'm also accused by my staff of being a bit of a micro-manager. I always ensure that I've combed through them thoroughly myself as well.
One thing I will admit is that my signature is fairly erratic, and it doesn't often look the same from one day to the next. A number of times they've come back and questioned the signature to verify that it was in fact mine. Clearly that tells me they are looking quite thoroughly at these documents, and that's a really good thing to know. It gives me comfort, certainly, to know that the job is being done as thoroughly as it is.
Let me use one other example from my own experience. I recall that one time an item that had cost $20 or $25—I can't remember the exact amount—had been purchased as a gift for an official visit I was making to a first nation. I guess the receipt that accompanied it didn't give sufficient detail from the store it was purchased from on what exactly it was, so that was brought back to me.
Now, I'm assuming that probably in many instances, among the 4,365 letters, it would be something of that nature. I'm wondering, from your look at things.... You mentioned the 98.5%. So in that 1.5%, would it have generally been that kind of thing? You indicated insufficient documentation and that kind of thing. I'm assuming you wouldn't have discovered anything that would be of the magnitude of some of the things we've seen in the Senate.
I guess the first question is—
Collapse
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
As I've said a number of times on this committee, I would have been able to follow up except that I wasn't listening. No, I'm just kidding.
With all due respect to Blake, I have a different series of questions, or a different view, anyway.
Going back once again to my last line of questioning, the purpose of this is to try to find out whether or not we need to replace the BOIE, and that's really why we're here.
The NDP is taking the view that we do need to. You've certainly made recommendations that we need at least some other independent body, whether it is to advise the BOIE or to replace the BOIE, that there needs to be an independent function. I can only surmise that you are saying that in your view, the BOIE, for whatever reasons, does not fulfill the functions of either transparency—and probably that's the priority you're talking about—or accountability in good governance. Otherwise, why would you think the BOIE, as we now know it, should be replaced?
We've certainly heard examples. Mr. Richards was talking about how some of his claims were rejected because the administration couldn't determine whether or not it was actually his signature. I—and I think every MP at this table—could give examples where I've made claims that have come back to for further information or clarification, which again, as Mr. Richards points out, gives me confidence that the people who are examining our expense claims are doing their job and they're doing it well. Yet you're saying that in your view, the BOIE should be either replaced or strengthened.
I'd just like to get comments from you as to, in an overarching view, why you think that's important. Is it that you just don't have enough confidence in the BOIE, or is it just not transparent enough for your purposes?
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:56
Expand
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We certainly have not done an audit of the functioning of the board, and we haven't said that the board needs to be replaced. We have indicated that we think there would be a role for an independent organization to augment the process as it is right now, and that independent board could either have some authority or it could be advisory.
We don't dispute that there are very diligent people working in the administration of the House of Commons, processing claims. We agree with that. We understand they're dedicated people and they're working very hard at the jobs they do.
But again, for us this issue.... What we're doing is looking at governance structures in other places, and we're asking whether there are some good practices out there that should be considered by the committee. Whether you look at other government jurisdictions or at the private sector, we think that having a role for some sort of an audit committee, and a committee that has some independence, would be a way to help strengthen Canadians' confidence in the way members' expenses are being processed. That's really what we think the committee should be considering, whether there are ways to really enhance that confidence.
Collapse
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
—you're not advocating a replacement of the BOIE, just a strengthening of the system around it.
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:58
Expand
We haven't said one way or another to replace the board or not replace it. Certainly, the functions of the board have to be done by somebody. How the board would interact with this independent committee is something that would have to be considered.
We think some form of independence would be the important thing that needs to be added to the process.
Collapse
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much, Chair. I appreciate that.
Thank you again, Mr. Ferguson, for your answers.
Just to pick up on the discussion that you were having, I think it's still fair to say that all the examples you've given in here—unless I've misread them—are actually examples of arm's-length independent agencies. I saw nothing in here that was a kind of beefed-up BOIE, but more what you've referenced. By that I mean—we've talked about Alberta, although you don't reference it here—the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia, which each have independent mandates, different from the BOIE, so that it's not MPs telling the country, “Okay, every MP's expenses are okay.” It's other people, arm's length from us, saying, “Yes, they're okay. These are the rules.”
I would just ask you to comment on that.
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 11:59
Expand
Certainly in the paper we provided the committee there are examples of those independent bodies. There are other examples as well, perhaps Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, where a couple of independent members have been added within the existing system. So there are both models out there.
Collapse
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2013-11-19 12:00
Expand
Again, I think what we're saying is that there needs to be independence, both from the audit perspective and from the internal audit committee type of perspective. Whether that is advisory or it's authoritative, again, really, we can't make that decision, obviously. But what we feel is important, again for this committee, is that it's really about what people outside of this room think. As I've said, it's not just the reasonable person per se, but whether the reasonable person looking at it with skepticism thinks that any changes you put in place have gone far enough. That's what we're bringing forward.
Collapse
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Fair enough.
I would just say that in responding to the rightful demand of the public to have more confidence, it's not going to come from our just painting up the existing system—and it's my opinion and I'm not looking for you to comment. But it really does need to be that independent body.
Take a look at Great Britain. That's the best example of scandals that exist. They had a bigger problem than we do or did, and look where they went to solve it. I'm perplexed why we would think about going to anything less than, and I think it's going to leave Canadians perplexed. At the end of this process, if Canadians still don't think there's a process that holds us adequately to account, we have failed. It seems to me that we ought not be tinkering but go with the idea that we need a new, separate structure, find out which model works best or whether we should have a “Made in Canada” hybrid model that suits our particular needs.
But I have to tell you, folks, this notion of doing anything that leaves the BOIE intact vis-à-vis MPs' expenses and our accountability is not going to fly. I hope that's not where the government's thinking of going with its majority, to drive us into that. That train's left the station and people expect us to be setting the same standard of accountability for ourselves that we set at the public accounts committee through the Auditor General for everybody else in government.
Now will there still be some things that could remain in the BOIE's purview? That could very well be. I used to sit on the BOIE at Queen's Park and not everything is related to members' expenses. There are other matters that go there. There may still be a BOIE performing some functions. But the notion that they in any way, shape, or form would do the auditing and accountability function of what we're talking about here to me is going to leave Canadians saying, “You're still not doing what we need, and you're still not transparent enough”, in which case we will have blown all of this time.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:05
Expand
Chairman, I'm very pleased to be asked to appear before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs today. At IPSA we're very proud of what we've achieved over the past four years and I'm glad to have the opportunity to share some of our experiences with you.
As you know, IPSA was created by the Parliamentary Standards Act in 2009 in response to the MPs' expenses scandal in 2008. Parliament decided that the scandal was so serious that the only way to restore public confidence was to take both regulation and the payment of MPs' costs and expenses out of Parliament's hands, to create an independent regulator.
The Constitutional Reform and Governance Act in 2010 refined IPSA's role, giving it the power to determine MPs' pay and pensions as well, and creating the role of the compliance officer, which I'm happy to discuss further during questions. That independence is what defines IPSA. It allows us to take decisions about the rules we set, about the administrative services we provide, that we believe are in the public interest. We frequently consult, we always listen to all sides of an argument, especially when they are backed by evidence, but ultimately the decisions are ours.
A second crucial characteristic of how IPSA operates is transparency. The House of Commons in the U.K. had begun to publish receipts before the last general election in 2010, but that was after resisting their publication in the courts and then, unavoidably, after the full details had been leaked to the media.
For IPSA, publication of information about MPs' claims for business costs and expenses has been a priority from the start. We first published claims in November 2010, and have been doing so on a two-monthly cycle ever since. We also publish aggregate data for the preceding financial year, ending in March, every September. This transparency, as well as complying with the aims of the U.K.'s Freedom of Information Act, allows the public to see what their MPs are spending and to decide for themselves what they think of it. It means that there's strong accountability and better understanding of the financial support an MP needs to undertake his or her parliamentary duties.
A third important element is how we provide support to MPs in carrying out their parliamentary duties. Quite unusually, we provide the payroll services, model contracts, and pay ranges for MPs' staff and, of course, we pay their costs and expenses. So we both regulate and provide those services.
Our system is based on reimbursement on the provision of evidence. But we also pay some suppliers, like landlords, pooled research services, and stationery suppliers directly. This means the MP doesn't have to pay the money out of his or her account first. MPs also have access to an online rail ticket service and have a payment card that can be used for a range of transactions. What this means is that it's possible for an MP to now pay for up to 70% of claims by value through direct payment.
We didn't have all of this from the start. IPSA moved from a blank sheet of paper on the chief executive's desk in October of 2009 to a fully functioning organization with an office, with an online claims system and a new scheme of rules, in time for the new Parliament on May 6, 2010, a really quick process.
The Office of Government Commerce in the U.K., reviewing our implementation program, said we had achieved the impossible. There were certainly challenges operationally in the early days, not least because of the registration requirements before claims could be made, and the time needed by some MPs to get used to claiming online. Some MPs also experienced cashflow problems, and we addressed those in the short term through the swift introduction of an interest-free loan of up to £4,000.
It was a learning process for both MPs and for IPSA. There were tensions. But over time most of these problems have subsided, and we have a system that works well. Most MPs and their staff are familiar with the rules and the IT system. Claims are generally paid within seven to nine working days of receipt. As I noted earlier, many of the high-value transactions can be paid directly by IPSA. Salaries are paid promptly and accurately, and every two months we publish the details of over 30,000 claims.
In policy terms we keep an eye on how the rules are working, and we review them and consult every year. We're about to open a new consultation next week. But our focus has shifted in the last year or so to MPs' pay and pensions, where IPSA's powers were brought into force in 2011. We have run two consultations, the first an open exploration of the issues; the second a focused consultation on a proposed remuneration package that features a pay increase of about 9% to begin after the 2015 general election in the U.K., and a reform of MPs' pensions to bring them more into line with the rest of the public sector. Our board will be taking decisions independently later this year.
So, to end, what are our priorities right now? First, it's to complete the work on pay and pensions. Second, it's to continue our preparations for the 2015 general election. We'll be doing that in cooperation with the House of Commons and with MPs themselves. And thirdly, we continue to look at ways of streamlining our processes to make sure we are maximizing value for money and delivering our services as efficiently as possible.
I hope that gives you something to get the ball rolling. I welcome questions, Chairman, from you and from your committee.
Collapse
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I have a few questions. First, let's talk about the composition of your organization. How were the members of IPSA selected? Was it the governing party who selected all of the members? Did the opposition parties have a chance to nominate some members? Did you go through a selection process? Quite simply, how were you and others on IPSA selected and what kind of a vetting process was there?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:12
Expand
Well, we have a board, which is enshrined in legislation, with five members. The chairman is Sir Ian Kennedy. We have an ex-High Court judge—this is required by statute—Sir Neil Butterfield; an auditor, Anne Whitaker. An ex-MP, Tony Wright, a well-known MP, was the ex-chair of the public administration committee, amongst other things. And then we have one other board member who doesn't have to have a particular role, who is Liz Padmore, who chairs a National Health Service trust in the U.K.
Now, those have all been selected by open competition. Sir Ian was selected as chairman in 2010, and was appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons. This is not a government appointment and it's not an opposition party appointment, but the Speaker was heading up that process. So Ian was selected then, and a number of other board members.
They will have three-year terms and all decided not to apply again. So we have a new board, apart from Sir Ian, from the beginning of this year, the people I've just described. Again, they were all selected through open competition by a panel that was again chaired by the Speaker, John Bercow, and included our chairman and a number of other public figures with expertise in senior appointments.
As for the other members of the team, initially, IPSA was, as I said, created extremely quickly, and our chief executive, Andrew McDonald, was a civil servant connected with the Ministry of Justice, which then had the policy responsibility for constitutional matters. So Andrew was appointed as interim chairman. The senior members of the team, including me, came by a number of routes. I personally was seconded from the Ministry of Justice. I've been there for three and a half years. Other directors since then have been appointed through open competition.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:14
Expand
It is, yes. It's audited by the National Audit Office and we are also often scrutinized by parliamentary committees. Our budget has to be agreed by a special committee, which is the Speaker's Committee for IPSA, again chaired by the Speaker, obviously, and that comprises MPs from various parties and some lay members as well.
So they're not in the business of telling us exactly what to do, obviously, because we're independent, but they do agree to our budget. As I say, we're audited by the National Audit Office. We have been scrutinized by the public accounts committee, and we've had a number of other parliamentary committees looking at us over the last three years.
Collapse
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you.
I would assume that, as in any new organization—as you say, you started with a blank sheet of paper—there were growing pains. What were the audit findings with respect to the administration of your organization? Did they have any specific suggestions on how you could improve your function? Were there any problems that they determined needed to be corrected?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:15
Expand
In our first year, quite quickly, we had the value-for-money review by the National Audit Office. Now, this is most unusual for an organization of our size in its first year, but obviously given the political sensitivities of what we do, there was a lot of interest in that.
The National Audit Office, if I recall—I'm afraid I don't recall all the detail now—gave us a pretty good report, and we were very pleased with that. But it did make a number of suggestions. An example was how we validate claims. When we started—and you may not be surprised, given why we were created—those individual claims were checked two or three times to make sure we got it right. Over time we've streamlined that, and one of the things that the NAO has been very keen to see us doing is to use a much more risk-based approach to the validation of claims. So with the fairly bog standard claims with a low risk, you don't need to spend too much time on those, but what you can do is audit them later. And we're doing a lot more of that now, where our audit team takes a look at patterns and outliers and things like that, and that picks up some of the more unusual claims. But yes, we've been pretty heavily scrutinized.
Collapse
View Tom Lukiwski Profile
CPC (SK)
I'm curious. You may not have enough time to answer this fully, but if not, hopefully we can get back to it a little later.
From the transparency standpoint, you mentioned that you publish the findings you have on MP expense claims. What do you publish and how to you publish them? At what level of detail do you publish all of the claims that are submitted to your organization?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:17
Expand
Apart from highly sensitive security-related claims and claims having to do with disability, where we just provide an aggregate figure once a year for all MPs, we basically publish everything. The way we do it is that we extract the relevant information from those claims and report that. What we don't do at the moment is actually publish the receipts themselves. We thought long and hard about that at the beginning and took the view that, firstly, it was an unnecessary and very expensive process because you have to redact a lot of information, because of personal information and that kind of thing, and that costs a lot of money.
But also we were concerned because redaction is, to be honest, a mind-numbing process for the people who have to do it. There's always a risk that personal information could be missed. The way we do it cuts out that risk. We publish the information itself.
Collapse
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Sills, for being here with us today. We're looking at an independent oversight of MPs' expenses, and we just had our very respected Auditor General of Canada come before this committee, and he said he very much would like to see independent oversight of MPs' expenses. So obviously we're looking at the types of models we could put into place for that independent oversight to bring an end to self-policing of MPs' expenses.
I want to know this, just to start off. With the transition to IPSA, was there real resistance to having independent oversight of members of Parliament, and where did that resistance come from, if there was, and what was the character of that resistance?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:19
Expand
I think it's fair to say there was resistance at the beginning. It's a very different relationship, when you've got an independent regulator, from when it's done in-house. And although Parliament obviously did vote for our creation, I think there were a good number of MPs who weren't really that happy that we existed. The resistance, I guess, took a number of forms. One was that quite a lot of MPs didn't really want to have to submit their claims online. They were used to doing them in a paper-based system, and since this required more time and effort, we did have some difficulties with that at first.
As I said earlier, we were heavily, heavily scrutinized for an organization of our size, and that takes up a lot of time for a small organization. And there was a certain amount of hostility, it's fair to say. One of the things we did early on was have a lot of seminars with MPs from different parties, and it's fair to say we didn't get a warm welcome.
Collapse
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Fair enough.
I'd like to talk more specifically now about how IPSA functions. Mr. Lukiwski just asked about the findings on claims, which is important. I understand that the minutes of IPSA meetings are made public. Are the meetings held in public? If some meetings are held in camera and some are public, what are the criteria for going in camera?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:21
Expand
We don't hold meetings in public. Our board meetings are private, but we do publish the minutes of those meetings. We don't routinely publish board papers, but under our freedom of information act people can ask to see them and then we will make a judgment about whether it's in the public interest to release those papers. We have released a fair number in the past.
Collapse
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
You are subject to your freedom of information act. Is there an appeal process if IPSA chooses for whatever reason not to release that information?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:22
Expand
Yes, there is. It is quite a complex process. It works in a number of stages. First, if we say we won't publish information, for whatever reason, the requester can ask for an internal review that has to be carried out by a senior member of IPSA who wasn't involved in the original request.
If after that review we are still saying no, then the requester can take the issue to the information commissioner, which is the body that oversees freedom of information and data protection in the UK.
If they are still not getting the answer they want, they can take it to a tribunal. Then it can work its way up the justice system. So there are a number of steps. People often ask for internal reviews. It is quite a frequent occurrence.
Collapse
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
May I ask if you have had situations where it has gone to the information commissioner and then to a tribunal? How long did that process take to get access to the information?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:23
Expand
There haven't been many, but there's one in process at the moment. In fact, it's a very interesting one. It relates to one of my previous answers, which had to do with somebody requesting to see some receipts. We said no. The internal review agreed not to show them. So the requester went to the information commissioner, who said yes. We are now appealing that decision.
We have been to a lower-tier tribunal and we're about to go to an upper-tier tribunal. That hearing is going to be taking place later this year. So it could be an interesting outcome.
Collapse
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
My final question has to do with how the board makes its decisions. We have a Board of Internal Economy, which has in the past functioned by consensus. Unfortunately, it seems to be moving to a majority model now. Where there is some difference of opinion, does your board rule by consensus or is it a majority vote that decides?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:24
Expand
I think the current board in particular is very keen to do things by consensus. It's been in place for nearly a year now and as the director I go to all the board meetings. It doesn't come down to a vote if there's a good argument. Directors coming from quite different backgrounds can have different views on matters. Having been advised by policy officials like myself, they work very hard to find consensus. If they had to vote they would, but we work through consensus if we can.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:25
Expand
I'm trying to think, but not a real “hands up because we can't decide this”. People work hard to find consensus. We've had votes in the past but not this time around.
Collapse
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-11-19 12:26
Expand
Welcome, Mr. Sills.
I have a few questions that I would like to get on the record. One of them is dealing with the process when members of Parliament say they want to be able to move in a certain direction and incur another expense. For example, with advertising, we don't think we should have a party logo on it. There would be a discussion and a decision would be made by the Board of Internal Economy, and then it's passed on.
What role does IPSA play in regard to guidelines for what a member of Parliament can or cannot spend money on? Or is that brought to IPSA?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:26
Expand
We have a set of rules that govern all MP's expense claims, and we consult on those rules. When they started we had extensive consultation, and we review them every year. As an independent body we then set them, and that's it, basically: they are the rules.
Collapse
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-11-19 12:27
Expand
Are you approached by the House or any of the committees who say they would like you to consider extending that sort of a benefit of expenditure, or to change something?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:27
Expand
We have regular discussions with all the parties, and other political figures. When we consult we always make the effort to discuss matters with them and seek their views.
We also have a parliamentary group called the IPSA-MP liaison group with a number of senior MPs, which meets from time to time to discuss issues. There are plenty of ways of having those discussions.
Collapse
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-11-19 12:28
Expand
So the board would take it upon itself to meet with different caucuses, and independents, to get a sense of their feelings and thoughts.
Collapse
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-11-19 12:28
Expand
What sort of an appeal mechanism do you have in place? For example, what happens when an MP puts in a claim, he or she gets a response, and they are not happy with the response? Who do they appeal to?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:28
Expand
In the first instance, they could ask for IPSA itself to review it. We have an audit team that would review the decision.
If they are not satisfied with that, they can go to the compliance officer, who is independent of IPSA. He is appointed by the IPSA board but he operates independently. If an MP isn't happy that something hasn't been paid, then he or she can take it to the compliance officer. It's relatively rare, but it has happened.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:29
Expand
It's meant to meet once a month, but it quite often meets more than that. It has one formal board meeting a month, but we have been holding a lot of workshops because of a huge range of issues that we're dealing with at the moment. The board has in recent times been meeting two or three times a month, but that is unusual. It is generally one meeting.
Collapse
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-11-19 12:29
Expand
As a committee, you don't meet publicly. Is there any sense that there could be a need or a justification to allow it to be open? Can someone come in and participate, or watch?
What would the rationale be for not having it open to the public?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:29
Expand
It's interesting. At the beginning there was talk of having cameras and so on, but we decided that we didn't think that was going to work. So what we do is to publish those minutes.
For example, when we consult we'll always report back on the views of the public and the reasons for our decisions and so on. At this point in time, I don't think there's much appetite for actually holding public meetings.
Collapse
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-11-19 12:30
Expand
One of the issues that has come up in the province of Manitoba—and I really believe in this—is that they have actually appointed a commissioner who sets the salaries and pensions of MPs. It's non-debatable, and it takes effect after the following provincial election.
How precisely do you establish a member of Parliament's salary and pension benefits, and when does it take effect?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:30
Expand
Well, we have the power to do that now. We've been consulting about that. We've already determined MP's salaries. These are backbench MPs, by the way, not government ministers' salaries. We said for the current year and the next year that they should get a 1% pay increase, which is the same as the rest of the public sector.
The decision on what happens after the next election is what we're consulting on, and we will set the exact salary and the pension contributions, benefits, and so on. We are working on that at the moment. We have consulted very widely, but it will be IPSA's decision alone.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:31
Expand
We've consulted in all sorts of ways. We do it in the traditional way, with a consultation paper inviting responses; we have an online survey; we've done quite a lot of opinion polling. Last year we conducted a number of citizens' juries, which I know is something that has happened in Canada quite often, whereby you can really get to understand what the public are thinking, if you're with them for three to four hours getting more information. That was extremely helpful. Obviously we consult MPs.
For something such as the pensions, we've worked a lot with the trustees of the MPs' pension fund. In fact, I personally am one of the trustees—IPSA has a member on the MPs' pension fund.
We basically look for as many ways to consult as we can.
Collapse
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2013-11-19 12:32
Expand
Through the committee and the establishment of the committee itself of IPSA, there are some mandatory positions, I believe. You said, for example, there's the High Court judge; I think you mentioned the auditor. Then it is left, is it, for the other three spots to be appointed by a hiring committee of the Speaker, which the Speaker would chair?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:32
Expand
They're all appointed by open competition, but what the legislation requires is that we should have a High Court Judge, an auditor, and an ex-MP. It is not specified what the chairman's background should be, and it's not specified what the background of the other board members should be. But those three are there in statute.
Collapse
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-19 12:33
Expand
Thank you. I'd just like to clear the record. I think somebody suggested that our Board of Internal Economy is moving to a voting system. That's not true. The Clerk of the House said that there has been one vote in eight years. It deals by consensus.
Sir, I wonder whether you could explain to us a bit about what discretionary spending is available to the independent backbench MPs.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:33
Expand
What discretionary spending is available? Well, we set budgets in a number of areas—staffing, office budget, accommodation, residential accommodation—and within those budgets' limits, as long as it's for parliamentary purposes, it's up to the MP what they claim. In that sense, they have a good degree of discretion about how they use their budgets.
As far as individual claims are concerned, we obviously determine them.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:34
Expand
Yes, travel is another one of the budgets. That's not capped, because obviously an MP from Scotland—the other side of the country—and an MP from near to London are going to have very different travel expenses. They are done on the basis of an uncapped budget.
Collapse
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Dave MacKenzie Profile
2013-11-19 12:34
Expand
Then my question would be, if you had an MP who lived in the countryside and were to travel around in his riding—to various smaller communities, maybe—would you report his travel on an individual basis?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:35
Expand
I'm trying to remember. I don't think we do that for every individual journey. We just say where it was to.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:35
Expand
We don't publish receipts, but on what we call constituency travel, the MP makes the claim. Basically, they have a mileage rate, and so they just say how many miles they've travelled, where from, and where to.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:36
Expand
IPSA costs every year about £6 million. We're both the regulator and the provider of payroll and expenses. And of course, as an independent organization, you have to have all the normal overheads—HR, IT, and so on.
So the total is £6 million. We dispense around £160 million of funding, so this is a relatively small proportion of the overall total.
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:37
Expand
It's around £20,000 to £25,000. It depends whether the office is in London or outside London. It's slightly more for London. London is about £24,000, and others are about £21,000.
Collapse
View David Christopherson Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Sills, for your time today. It's been very helpful and very informative.
In the creation of IPSA, was the vote unanimous in the House of Commons?
Collapse
John Sills
View John Sills Profile
John Sills
2013-11-19 12:37
Expand
That's a good question. I'm not sure I can quite remember that. I think it may have been, or with very few in opposition, because I think all MPs recognized at the time, given what had happened, that it was important to create IPSA. Also, it went through extremely quickly. I think it was a couple of months at most for the whole process.
Collapse
Results: 601 - 700 of 2195 | Page: 7 of 22

|<
<
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
>
>|
Export As: XML CSV RSS

For more data options, please see Open Data