The governing body of the House of Commons continues to fail Canadians on the important questions of transparency and oversight. In his recent report, Michael Ferguson, the Auditor General of Canada, called for more transparency.
But board has “further limited public transparency over its secret meetings and decisions.” It meets in camera. Parliamentary code phrase for “secret”.
The Board of Internal Economy “makes decisions and provides direction on financial and administrative policies of the House.” It’s responsible for ”establishing by-laws, policies and guidelines relating to expenditures and resources provided to Members in order to carry out their parliamentary functions.” That includes MPs’ travel perks.
The current budget is $446-million.
The Board retains exclusive authority to determine whether expenditures are proper and in accordance with the established by-laws, policies and guidelines. Ferguson’s audit “found weaknesses in contracting practices: 41 of 59 items tested did not meet all the requirements of the Administration’s own procurement policy and procedures. This ranged from missing documents, to unsigned contracts, to a contract awarded to a bidder that did not meet one of the mandatory requirements.”
I couldn’t find the Board’s its latest report of MPs’ expenses. But this one, from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011, is an eye-opener. The second biggest expenditure item is something called ten percenters. Folks, we were charged a whopping $10,182,707.71 for the printing of partisan gabbage.
But don’t blame just Harper and the Conservatives this time. The Board’s is independent from the Harper regime. Sort of. It’s inscrutable authority is enshrined in the Parliament of Canada Act. Most importantly, the opposition is part of this undemocratic mess.
House Speaker Andrew Scheer heads up the Board. Government House Leader Peter Van Loan, is a member. So are “two members of the Privy Council.” Appointed by the Government, of course. Then there’s the Clerk of the House of Commons, who reports to the Speaker and serves as Secretary to the Board.
Opposition membership is extended to “the Leader of the Opposition or his or her representative, and additional Members appointed in numbers so that the total results in an overall equality of government and opposition representatives (apart from the Speaker). ”
According to the official Parliament website, the Board’s current members are:
- Andrew Scheer (Chair), Conservative Party of Canada
- Peter Van Loan, Conservative Party of Canada
- Rob Merrifield, Conservative Party of Canada
- Gordon O’Connor, Conservative Party of Canada
- Nathan Cullen, New Democratic Party
- Nycole Turmel, New Democratic Party
- Judy Foote, Liberal Party of Canada
If it’s a consolation, at least we get a glimpse into the post-Harper future!