says scandal not $100M, but $250M
May 3, 2004) OTTAWA
- Auditor General Sheila Fraser clarified today that she never said $100 million went missing from the sponsorship program, but at the same time she said her concerns about the program went beyond
just the $100 million paid to ad agencies and had to do with the entire $250 million program.
"I think I have said on numerous occasions that we have never said that the $100 million is missing or stolen or unaccounted for," Fraser said before the Public Accounts committee.
"The issue we have is we are concerned about the management of the program .. and secondly that we can see no indication of value for money in the transactions that we looked at. Our concerns are with the whole program
-- $250 million, not just the $100 million."
Fraser's statement about the $100 million not being missing allowed the Liberals on the committee to go on the offensive and attack some comments made in the past by Conservative MP Vic Toews who said before the committee that $100 million had been stolen or Conservative Leader Stephen Harper who in a mailout to Canadians said $100 million had gone missing.
"You did a fabulous report. You did what you were supposed to," said Liberal MP Marlene Jennings. "But there have been individuals and parties that have been creating mischief, putting words into your report and into your mouth. And I think that they need to stop. And if they wish to quote your report, they should quote your report and not misinform the Canadian public."
However, Fraser did maintain that it appeared hard to believe that sponsorship scandal was due to some mistake or accident.
"This wasn't just a few people trying to go a little faster and reducing a few of the controls," she said. "From the very beginning of this program, it would appear to have been set up and established quite outside what is generally not a bad framework for control and oversight within the department of Public Works.
"That is one of the large questions."
The Auditor General has come under fire in recent weeks from numerous witnesses from Crown corporations and ad agencies that have appeared before the committee, some suggesting that her report does not differentiate between production fees received by the agencies and commissions.
But Fraser stood by her report.
"I maintain the facts referred to in our report are accurate," she said.
"Much has been made about production costs versus commissions. I would raise the issue that included in those production costs are commissions and you cannot accurately distinguish any further in the $100 million."
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