Pan Am Games CEO Ian Troop, Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Michael Chan and Premier Kathleen Wynne.
TORONTO - Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government can no longer claim it was in the dark about expense account abuses by Pan Am Games committee executives until a few week ago.
Not when we now know, thanks to reporting by Sun Queen’s Park columnist Sue-Ann Levy, that these abuses were clearly documented in a July 2012 audit of the Pan Am committee done by Ontario’s finance ministry.
Government auditors reported, a year ago, that Pam Am executives were taking each other out to dinner, improperly calling them business meals, and billing taxpayers for it.
That they were being improperly reimbursed for expense claims in which they did not provide receipts, or even a written explanation about why there were no receipts.
That foreign travel by Pan Am executives — visiting some cities up to six times — was improperly approved on a verbal basis, rather than by obtaining prior written consent, as it should have been.
All these findings point to the same problem. Without a paper trail, there’s no way to establish whether expense claims — paid with taxpayers’ money — were appropriate.
The audit report also calls into question the continuing insistence by Pam Am officials that all their expense spending was consistent with their internal policies, since we now know the auditors found those policies were inadequate more than a year ago.
While the auditors reported no “serious” examples of non-compliance with spending rules, their findings should have been a red flag to the Liberal government.
As Tory MPP Rod Jackson, the party’s Pam Am critic, told the Sun: “If they didn’t know this stuff was going on in 2012, they should have and if they did, they failed to act on it.”
The larger concern, as Jackson noted, is that if the government wasn’t paying attention to expense claim problems at the Pan Am committee, then what about its oversight of the “big stuff” — its overall management of the $1.4 billion publicly-funded games?
It’s not enough for the Pan Am committee to keep insisting that it followed all its internal spending rules and revised them appropriately in light of the auditor’s report.
The public — which is paying the freight for the Pan Am Games — has no way of knowing that.
None of the Pan Am expenses were posted online, as they should have been from the start, in our view.
No one knew about them until the Sun obtained some of the documents through a Freedom of Information request.
Neither the public nor the opposition parties knew about the findings of the audit report until now, and if the Liberals did, they weren’t talking about it.
This is no longer simply an issue about poor expense spending controls within the Pan Am committee.
It’s now a question about the Liberal government’s competence in managing the $1.4 billion taxpayer-funded Pan Am Games.