OTTAWA — Taxpayers are on the hook for more than $528,000 in auditing fees after the upper chamber called in external bookkeepers to get to the bottom of dubious expenses claimed by four senators.
In a statement, the former chair and deputy chair of the Senate's internal economy committee defended the contracting price tag, but neither returned requests for an interview.
"The costs of conducting these audits has to be viewed in context of the larger issue of accountability and trust," Liberal Sen. George Furey said in the statement.
The Senate released the cost to audit Conservative-appointed senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, and Liberal-appointed Sen. Mac Harb — now retired — Friday.
The quarterly contract reports also show the estimated costs for the audits ballooned alongside the ongoing spending scandal.
The Canadian Taxpayer Federation's federal director Gregory Thomas said the Senate should have used Auditor General Michael Ferguson — now scrutinizing all the Senators' books — instead of hiring an outside firm.
"This is the price we're paying for political spin and damage control," he said.
NDP MP Paul Dewar noted taxpayers will have paid roughly the same amount to audit the four senators as they'll get back in disallowed expenses returned to the public purse.
"It just makes the thing more of a farce," he said.
Wallin, Harb, and Duffy's disallowed expenses have all been repaid with interest.
Brazeau denies he misspent any money and the Senate is clawing back his wages for the full $48,000 it says he owes.