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Wildrose calls for public inquiry into government spending abuses

CALGARY, AB (August 8, 2014): Following a damning Auditor General’s report that cast light on the rampant misuse and abuse of tax dollars in the Premier’s Office, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith is today calling for a full and broad public inquiry into government-wide spending practices to determine whether or not the same kinds of practices are taking place across government.

Smith said Auditor General Merwan Saher’s report focused only on the Premier’s Office but found that spending rules and policies were disregarded in the departments of Finance, Infrastructure and International and Intergovernmental Relations. She said Saher’s report and public comments offer enough evidence to warrant a much broader probe in order to determine the scope of the abuses.

“The obvious question following Mr. Saher’s report is just how far these kinds of abuses are spread across government departments. The only way to determine that is to hold a full public inquiry,” Smith said. “The Premier’s office touches all departments. If there really is an ‘aura of power’ that causes people to ‘feel trapped’ into breaking the rules and creating ‘work arounds,’ Albertans absolutely need to know how deep this goes. There is just too much in Mr. Saher’s report to believe it’s all confined to one office.”

In responding to questions about whether his audit made any kind of government-wide conclusions, Saher said the objective of the audit “was not to try to get to the bottom of who knew what, where and when.” He went on to say, “that sort of question is very difficult for an auditor to deal with.”

In addition to the repeated misuse of the government aircraft, Saher found government spending rules were violated with regard to the residential suite in the Federal Building and travel, meal and accommodation expenses, including consistently and dramatically under-reporting the true costs of international missions.

Smith is challenging the three Alberta PC leadership contestants to commit to calling this kind of inquiry should they become leader and Premier.

“The single biggest issue the Alberta PC party faces today is their ethical conduct and their moral authority to govern,” Smith said. “I think all three of them recognize this, so if they’re serious about cleaning up government and regaining Albertans’ trust, it should be a no-brainer for them to commit to a public inquiry.”

Smith notes a public inquiry will give government staff the legal protection they need to testify.