Friday, March 28, 2014

Senator Claim Travel Expense for Prayer Meeting

Senator’s travel expense claim for prayer meeting under scrutiny
Sen. Don Meredith at his Faith Alliance and Computer Learning centre in Richmond Hill, Ont., Aug. 28, 2013.
A Conservative senator’s spending is under special scrutiny from the Senate itself, after he made a trip to Washington that the Senate’s leadership didn’t approve.

Sen. Don Meredith, a pastor from Toronto, spent five days in Washington for the National Prayer Breakfast, a gathering of some 3,000 international politicians and diplomats that included U.S. President Barack Obama and members of the United States Congress.

Senate sources say Conservative whip Sen. Beth Marshall didn’t approve the trip, yet Meredith still went. The Senate’s own rules allow senators to take trips to Washington. The Hill Times newspaper reported that Meredith expensed business class flights for him and his wife, and a claim of $1,294 for hotel, taxis and meals.
As a result, insiders suggested Monday that Meredith was being punished by his party for not following orders, and that the punishment includes a spending review by the Senate.
Senate sources say Meredith has been punished before for flouting party orders, including losing spots on committees.

There have been questions about his spending, including his choice to fly business class between his home in Toronto and Ottawa rather than ride the train for free.

And late last year, Meredith spoke out and abstained on a vote to suspend senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin without pay over their spending.

“I believe that we have rushed to judgment pending an RCMP investigation and I don’t believe that we have taken all the facts into consideration,” Meredith told reporters after the vote. “If I was accused tomorrow morning of breaking a Senate rule, I would like to be able to come before my Senate colleagues and be able to defend myself.”
Meredith did not return a call for comment.

Government Senate leader Claude Carignan wouldn’t comment directly Monday.
“The auditor general is currently examining the expenses of all senators. We expect all senators to spend taxpayer’s dollars responsibly,” said spokesman Sebastien Gariepy.

Auditor general Michael Ferguson is looking at how senators spend public funds, with the power to review expenses going back years. He is also vetting how the Senate administration reviews expense claims, with his final report expected to expose any problems.

Three MPs went on the same trip as Meredith, and charged the House of Commons for flights, hotels and meals. Conservative MPs Steven Fletcher and Harold Albrecht went to the prayer breakfast, along with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. Albrecht’s office confirmed he expensed more than $1,000 for the three-day trip, while May’s office said she expensed $980 for an economy, round-trip flight, and two days of per diems for food and taxis, but didn’t expense a hotel as she stayed with a friend.

Fletcher didn’t say how much he expensed, but said the claims followed Treasury Board guidelines. He also said the trip was worth any cost.

“You can do in three days what would probably take three years in any other context,” Fletcher said. “There’s just no other place that you’ll find the president, the vice-president, Congress in one place at one time and accessible.”

No comments:

Post a Comment