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:: PoliticsWatch Feature

Another Summer of Scandal 

[PoliticsWatch posted 5:00 p.m. September 27, 2004]

While Parliament might take the summer off, scandal doesn't.

MPs may take the summer off, but there is no rest for scandal.    

The list of scandals and controversies continues to mount, whether it be in the public service, in the diplomatic world or in politics. 

PoliticsWatch presents its latest reader's guide to the latest scandals and scams. 

Privy Council Travel Advances

The Privy Council Office is the highest and most prestigious civil service office in the nation's capital. But it too isn't immune from scandal.

Last week, Colleen McDougall, a former PCO administrative assistant, was sentenced to a year of house arrest for stealing $16,000 by forging phoney travel advances. 

The Ottawa Citizen reports McDougall will only be allowed out of her house for medical emergencies, to buy groceries on Saturday and for work.

McDougall has also been ordered to repay the money in monthly instalments.

Exporting Scandal

Canada exported over $4 billion in goods and services to China in 2002. 

And you can now add scandal as a Canadian export to China. 

The Asian Pacific Post reported last week a top Canadian diplomat in Beijing has resigned following reports he is being investigated in an immigration scheme. 

The employee is alleged to have sought bribes ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 in exchange for visas from already rejected Canadian student visa applicants  

"He is thought to have made well over a million dollars before he bolted a few days before his posting expired," a source told the Asian Pacific Post. 

And although there is no criminal involvement, two of the prime minister's diplomatic appointments over the summer months have attracted some controversy. 

Despite Prime Minister Paul Martin's vow to end cronyism and patronage, the federal government named the PM's former director of communications, Mario Lague, ambassador to Costa Rica, much to the chagrin of Stockwell Day, foreign affairs critic for the Conservative Party. 

And the Canadian Jewish Congress is raising questions about the appointment of former Liberal MP Yvon Charbonneau as Canada's ambassador to the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, because of his stated views on the Jewish community and Israel.

"Mr. Charbonneau's appointment has met with considerable controversy as a result of reprehensible views concerning the Jewish community and the State of Israel that he advanced in the late 1970s and early 1980s and that as far as Israel is concerned he apparently has not tempered as late as 2002," said Ed Morgan, the group's national president, in a statement.

Champagne Living

Although it made headlines in the spring, the Hewlett-Packard-DND scandal, where $146 million was spent for computer maintenance subcontract work that never happened, entered a new phase over the summer after the federal government and Hewlett-Packard announced they were suing the bureaucrat at the centre of the scandal, Paul Champagne.

Earning just a $58,000 annual salary working for the Defence Department, Champagne somehow was able to garner $20 million in investments and real estate over a 10-year period, including a $1.4 million home with tennis court and a gym just outside of Ottawa, a home on a golf course in Florida, a $2 million beachfront mansion in Turks and Caicos, and an 11.9 per cent stake in the publicly-traded company WorkStream Inc. 

Champagne says he amassed his empire from good investments and some luck at Las Vegas casinos. 

A National Post feature in July provided an in depth explanation of how the scheme worked from a lawyer of one of the firms involved, RMC Systems. 

The lawyer alleges Champagne arranged a phoney invoice scheme when he posed as a defence consultant and asked RMC to handle billings and collections for a 15-per-cent commission. 

Whenever the firm's accountants asked Champagne to provide details about the work that was done, he would allegedly reply by saying, "The documents and backup data are there if necessary, but you don't have the security clearances to see it. This is top secret."

Officials at Hewlett-Packard also said they were duped in the scheme for the same reason. 

"It was a unique situation, involving a unique customer. No other Canadian client could credibly declare subcontract work top secret and get away with it," a company spokesman told the Post. 

It is noteworthy that this scandal involves more money than the $100 million that went to ad firms in the sponsorship scandal, but there is no rumblings about an inquiry. 

Sponsorship Scandal

The most politically damaging of all current scandals entered a new phase over the summer when the public judicial inquiry finally got under way in Ottawa. 

How $100 million in federal government sponsorship money ended up going to a few, select ad firms with little or no documentation has not been fully answered by the auditor general or the Commons public accounts committee.

The inquiry is sorting through more than 10 million pages in documents, but just a few have been able to make headlines over the past weeks. 

Most prominent of them was a report that high-level public servants complained about the value for money of the work done by one of the ad agencies in question as early as 1999. 

Documents released at the inquiry show Michael Calcott, then communications director for Treasury Board, fired off an e-mail of complaint to Public Works requesting more information about how to terminate a contract with the ad firm Groupaction for "incompetence or unsatisfactory service." 

"Not only do they charge exorbitant amounts for the work they do not perform, but the work they do perform is, at best, incompetent," Calcott wrote. 

And another controversy regarding the investigation is brewing. Conservative MP John Williams, who chaired the Public Accounts committee, is reportedly fuming over why his investigation did not receive a number of the documents that have been provided to the judicial inquiry. 

Ongoing scandals

The summer developments are in addition to a number of other scandals and scams that have occurred or have been ongoing over the past year. They included:

> A lack of proper screening and patronage for the federal government's appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board. 

> A $2 million loan from the softwood assistance plan given to a prominent Liberal in B.C. who owns a lumber mill. 

> A B.C. Liberal's allegations the government skirted competitive bidding rules by allowing fake invoices for small flag suppliers as part of the Heritage' department's efforts to hand out one million free Canadian flags

> Governor General Adrienne Clarkson's use of government jets for trips to New York and her cottage. 

> Wild reports of lavish spending of money earmarked for a native addiction centre in Manitoba known as the Virginia Fontaine Addictions Foundation.
 
> Various issues regarding potential conflicts due to the prime minister's family shipping firm, Canada Steamship Lines, including how the federal government grossly underestimated the amount of business the government conducted with the company. 

> Allegations of misconduct by Public Works and Government Services employees in the tendering of a contract to Royal LePage to provide moving and relocation services for National Defence and RCMP employees. 

> A Canada Customs and Revenue Agency employee arrested over allegations he sought up to a half million dollars in bribes from companies trying to get tax breaks.

> A retired Public Works official working at RCMP headquarters, charged with allegedly writing $250,000 in government cheques to himself before he retired. 

:: PoliticsWatch Election Archive

> Many More Hot Scandals and Scams 
>
Summer of Scandal 

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