Newspaper article The Canadian Press

No Checks on Whether Work Actually Done under Senators' Contracts, Court Hears

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

No Checks on Whether Work Actually Done under Senators' Contracts, Court Hears

Article excerpt

No checks on senators' contracts, court hears

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OTTAWA - Senators hand out plenty of work contracts, but officials don't check whether anything actually gets done, nor who ultimately does the job, an Ontario court judge was told Tuesday during the trial of Mike Duffy.

Duffy's defence lawyer Don Bayne used his cross-examination of a Senate official to make the case that the now-suspended senator was operating within the system as it existed -- with broad rules and light oversight.

The former Conservative faces 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, including a set that involve $65,000 in contracts set up through the company of Ottawa friend Gerald Donohue.

"Sen. Duffy's contracts and the amount of detail in them and the way he described his requests are like any other senator?" Bayne asked Senate human resource officer Sonia Makhlouf.

"Yes," Makhlouf said.

"This contract that you've approved and the commitment of public funds for all 105 senators, you don't know what actual work was done at all in the contracts?" Bayne asked.

"No, because it's at the discretion of the senator," Makhlouf replied.

The Senate human resources office approved contracts given out to a firm owned by Donohue, a former local TV executive. Duffy said he was to do research and consulting work, including advising him on issues involving the aging population.

But Donohue's firm didn't do all the work under that $65,000. He sent cheques to other service providers, outside the scrutiny of Senate administrators and apparently on Duffy's behalf. Among them was an office volunteer who received $500, a photo developing store that produced $1,578 of materials, and a makeup artist who prepared Duffy for an event with the prime minister.

Bayne took Makhlouf and the courtroom through some of the myriad guidelines, orientation pages, reports and rules that govern how senators are supposed to run their offices and conduct their business.

Since the trial began last week, Bayne has argued that Duffy abided by the rules on the books and, if anything, is guilty of administrative process errors and nothing criminal. …

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