N.S. au­di­tor probes deeper into ex­penses

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS/WEATHER -

HAL­I­FAX (CP) — Nova Sco­tia’s au­di­tor gen­eral will con­duct a foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the spending habits of some pro­vin­cial politi­cians based on new in­for­ma­tion that he says raises con­cerns about pos­si­ble il­le­gal­i­ties.

Jac­ques La­pointe is­sued a state­ment Fri­day say­ing he is fol­low­ing up on some of the ques­tion­able trans­ac­tions he flagged in an bomb­shell au­dit his of­fice re­leased last week.

The au­dit, which cov­ered from July 2006 to June 2009, prompted pub­lic out­rage be­cause it cited nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of in­ap­pro­pri­ate or ex­ces­sive spending and the need to clean up vague rules and in­ad­e­quate over­sight.

“The new ev­i­dence we had meant that this wasn’t fin­ished,” La­pointe said in an in­ter­view. “This is a case of looking at spe­cific events and trans­ac­tions and see­ing whether or not there may be il­le­gal­i­ties in­volved in some of them.”

If the in­ves­ti­ga­tion un­cov­ers ev­i­dence of po­ten­tial il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity, the find­ings would be turned over to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials who would then de­ter­mine whether charges should be laid.

La­pointe said the new in­for­ma­tion he re­ceived came from the pub­lic and the me­dia, but he de­clined to elab­o­rate.

While a typ­i­cal au­dit fo­cuses on ver­i­fy­ing rule com­pli­ance and value for money, a foren­sic au­dit ze­ros in on spe­cific trans­ac­tions, he said.

La­pointe wouldn’t say how many mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture are in­volved in the probe, but he con­firmed it’s more than one.

The orig­i­nal au­dit, the first of its kind in 15 years, re­vealed mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture used tax­pay­ers’ money to buy custom-made fur­ni­ture, ren­o­va­tions, a video game, cam­eras, big-screen TVs, an espresso maker, lap­tops and other items the au­di­tor deemed too ex­pen­sive or in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

La­pointe said his in­ves­ti­ga­tion will likely take a few weeks to com­plete. He also said he was sur­prised by the amount of me­dia at­ten­tion and pub­lic de­bate sparked by his orig­i­nal find­ings.

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