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"I did not read that audit"

(PoliticsWatch posted March 19, 2004) OTTAWA - In his second day before the Commons public accounts committee, former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano admitted that he never read the results of an internal audit examining contracting problems in his department. 

Gagliano's revelation came after a Perry Mason-like moment during the committee hearings with Conservative MP Jason Kenney. 

In his opening remarks yesterday, Gagliano boasted that his decision to call an internal audit in 2000 into problems with the sponsorship program led to the events that eventually unearthed the findings in the Auditor General's report.

"The remarkable fact is that most of this is already in the auditor general's report and that she has not found me wanting in any respect or relation to my performance as Minister of Public Works. She stated in her testimony on February 19, before this committee, and I quote, 'We wouldn't be here today if the internal audit hadn't done that initial audit in 2000,"" Gagliano said yesterday. 

Gagliano said that after receiving the audit he asked the internal auditor if he should call the police. And they said, "No, there is no criminal intent there. It's only an administrative problem". 

But today, Kenney read from an audit that detailed double billing by ad agencies. 

"Mr. Chairman, does the witness think that billing twice through essentially fake invoices constitutes a mere administrative problem, or would that not flag for him a potentially fraudulent activity?" Kenney asked. 

"Definitely is not an administrative problem," Gagliano responded. 

Kenney then revealed to Gagliano that it was the 2000 internal audit that he was reading from. 

"Mr. Chairman, what I just quoted was the 2000 audit. I'd like to know if the minister actually read that audit?" Kenney asked.

"I was given a verbal interim report," Gagliano replied. 

The Conservatives then pressed Gagliano on the point that he did not read the 18-page audit that he called for and contrasted against his previous testimony that he had read the 68-page Auditor General's report three times. 

"So you knew that something was going on wrong inside your department," said Conservative MP Vic Toews. "You got people inside your department to do the report. Instead of reading the report you relied on verbal information from people in your department. Is that correct?"

"Yes," replied Gagliano.

Some MPs became at their wits end with Gagliano as he continued to provide answers that didn't seem to add up to committee members. 

"Mr. Gagliano, I would suggest to you, sir, that you have played this committee for fools," said Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy. "Mr. Gagliano, I hate to say this, but 
I'll tell you something. I don't believe you and I'll tell you something else. Canadians don't believe you."

In a dramatic moment, Ablonczy then asked: "Who are you protecting, Mr. Gagliano? Why aren't you telling what you really know?"

"I'm not protecting anybody," Gagliano shot back. "I'm telling what I know, the way that the facts. The committee might judge that I exercised my responsibility or I'm incompetent, that's your judgment."

However, by the mid-way point of the day, Liberal MPs were telling reporters that they were not happy with the answers that Gagliano provided. 

Liberal MP Marlene Jennings found it odd that Gagliano never read the 2000 internal audit when in his pre-political life he was as an accountant. 

And another Liberal MP, Alan Tonks, described Gagliano's two-day of testimony as "evasive." 

Gagliano will recalled in future weeks for more questioning. Next week, the committee will meet and draw up their latest list of witnesses. It is expected that Olympic gold medallist Myriam Bedard, who noticed billing irregularities when she worked at Via Rail, will be one of the witnesses to be called. 

Check out these related links:

arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Unedited transcript of Gagliano's testimony: Day 2 (part 1)
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Unedited transcript of Gagliano's testimony: Day 2 (part 2)

arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Unedited transcript of Gagliano's testimony Day 1 (part 1)
arrow-trans.gif (111 bytes) Unedited transcript of Gagliano's testimony Day 1 (part 2)

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