NDP defends partisan 'kickback' fund
VICTORIA – The B.C. NDP collected more than $500,000 from constituency office budgets starting in 2005, using the money for purposes that Auditor General John Doyle described as inappropriate and inadequately documented.
Documents from a draft internal audit of B.C. legislature finances surfaced this week. They describe a practice of NDP constituency offices paying $202 per month each into a "centralized fund" that was used to hire three-time NDP candidate Gabriel Yiu on contracts to work for the NDP caucus.
B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Bill Bennett said Premier Christy Clark has apologized for a plan that suggested using government resources to help the party, and the NDP should do the same.
"This is a kickback scheme," Bennett said. "This is a scheme that uses money that's intended for constituency offices around this province ... your NDP MLA thought that it was OK to send back $200 a month to the caucus for politically partisan reasons, rather than using that money to look after your constituents."
NDP caucus chair Shane Simpson rejected suggestions that the centralized fund was a violation of the rules, noting that it was approved by the legislature's in-house accountant at the time.
The legislature's former comptroller general was fired last year after a broader audit by Doyle revealed MLAs' personal expenses were being paid without receipts. Those and other inadequacies in record-keeping prevented Doyle from assessing whether constituency funds were being properly spent.
The 2010 draft audit described the response of NDP "management" as admitting that the payments were inappropriate.
"Management erroneously relied on the honour system prevalent at the [Legislative] Assembly to accept the request for transfers which are now shown to have been inappropriate," the draft audit stated.
It describing the use of the funds as for "partisan purposes and not for goods or services consistent with the original purpose of the constituency office."