didn't ask for police
March 29, 2004) OTTAWA
- Former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano never asked whether the police should be called in to investigate the findings of a 2000 audit of the sponsorship program a Commons committee was told today. "I do not have any recollection of Mr. Gagliano asking me if I should call the police," said Norm Steinberg, who was the director general of the department's auditing branch.
In earlier interviews and in testimony before the committee, Gagliano repeatedly said that when he was told about the problems in the program by Steinberg in 2000 he requested police involvement.
"And that's when I said, 'Should I call the police?' and (department auditors) said, 'No, there is no criminal intent there. It's only an administrative problem,'" Gagliano said in his testimony before the committee earlier this month.
Steinberg also denied that he told Gagliano that the problems were administrative in nature, saying that they were "significant managerial lapses."
He would not characterize them as criminal, however.
Steinberg's testimony marks the second consecutive day of hearings where a witness contradicted Gagliano's earlier testimony. Last week, an employee in the branch that ran the sponsorship program, Huguette Tremblay, testified that program executive director Chuck Guite said he met with Gagliano weekly, not the three to four times a year that Gagliano said.
The department auditor also testified that he handed Gagliano a copy of the final audit along with a briefing. Gagliano testified that he was only given an oral briefing on the audit.
The latest contradictions prompted the opposition to again press the prime minister in question period to demand that Liberals on the public accounts committee support a motion by Tory MP Peter MacKay to have a wide scope of Gagliano's documents and records tabled to the committee. The Liberals did support a motion to have Gagliano's and Guite's daily agendas tabled.
"It's increasingly obvious we have to have released all of the former public works minister's documents," said Conservative Leader Stephen Harper in the House today.
Steinberg also testified that Gagliano was not the only person who he briefed on the 2000 audit. Officials from Treasury Board, the Privy Council Office and the PMO were also briefed including Chretien aides Francois Ducros and Eddie Goldenberg and Mario Lague, who is now Prime Minister Paul Martin's communications director.
Lague has never commented on whether he was briefed on the audit, but last month in an interview with CanWest he denied attending a confidential damage-control meeting in 2000 to design a strategy to contain the fallout from a scathing internal audit. That meeting took place a day after Steinberg testified to briefing PMO and PCO. Lague said although he was invited to the meeting, he sent an aide.
In other committee developments, Guite's lawyer, Michael Edelson, spoke to reporters at the committee to confirm that Guite was still out of the country and would not be able to testify on April 1, as is currently scheduled. Guite is currently on Arizona on vacation. Edelson denied that his client was avoiding the committee.
"We have now arrived at an agreement when he will attend and he's never resisted," said Edelson. He said his client needs more time to prepare with him before he can testify.
"I think it's become apparent that Mr. Guite has significant things to say about this program and he will tell the committee those things when he arrives here."
Committee chair John Williams said the committee will discuss Guite's appearance later today when they reconvene after question period.
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