Wednesday, November 16, 2011

 

You thought the B.C. Rail corruption case would fade into history after the defendants pleaded guilty last year in return for getting their whopping legal bills covered by the government? Think again, writes Les Leyne.

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By Les Leyne
Times Colonist - Nov. 16, 2011

The train of events set in motion by the long-running [BC Rail political corruption] case continues to trundle along. And Auditor General John Doyle signaled it will be a while yet before the stories come to an end.

The plea bargain arrangement that saw former aides Dave Basi and Bobby Virk excused from their $6 million legal bill after admitting to breach of trust charges arose from the indemnity agreement that covered their lawyers' costs in the first place.

That prompted enough public concern that the government asked University of B.C. president Stephen Toope to review how the government decides on whether to cover public servants legal bills. He reported last week on the general principles of such deals.

But while he was finishing that work, the auditor general filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court that came to light Tuesday. If he gets what he's after, it could fill his desk to overflowing with specific details about the legal bills and how the taxpayers ended up paying them.

Doyle's office is working on an audit of all special indemnities granted by the government over the last several years, Basi and Virk's included. There have been about 100 such deals struck and the audit is to determine if taxpayers got value for the money.

Based on his work to date, Doyle appears quite skeptical of the arrangements. In requesting full access to all details of the two men's indemnities, Doyle states to the court there are a number of apparent problems with such deals.

They are granted outside of established policy, there is no set approval process and government staff may not fully understand what they're doing in processing such indemnities, he said. And in a few cases, where the minister of finance approves an indemnity, usually for an elected politician, "the approval is not supported by legal advice from the attorney general's ministry."

Doyle is making a special effort to collect information on the Basi-Virk indemnities because they dwarf any of the deals that went before. Toope reported last week that most are for a few thousand dollars and don't come anywhere close to the $6 million tab rung up by defence lawyers over the years the B.C. Rail juggernaut rolled on.

But lengthy efforts to get all the financial data have run into repeated roadblocks over issues like solicitorclient privilege, cabinet confidentiality and specific confidentiality arrangements between the government and the defendants.

In a response to the petition, filed the same day, the government gives the appearance of being ready to cooperate with the watchdog - as soon as it is ordered to do so. The government said it has waived its claims of privilege and has repeatedly advised the auditor general it is willing to provide access to documents in question.
Reviewing all 100 indemnities, the government stated the number of documents generated over the years may be as many as 10,000 or more. They've all been imaged on to a hard drive and coded to be searchable.
As far as the Basi-Virk dealings are concerned, the government said the Legal Services Branch had outside independent reviewers go over the billings. It set up a process where all bills were identified and linked to the defence strategy so "as to permit fully informed assessment before billings were certified as payable." {Snip...}


Doyle's petition said both Basi and Virk last month declined to waive some of the restrictions on accessing the legal accounts.

The issue erupted in the legislature Tuesday, with the Opposition asking what the Liberals are trying to hide.

Attorney General Shirley Bond insisted the government backs Doyle and is collaborating with him. "We are supporting the court order that is required."

As it stands, the auditor general will likely eventually get a hard drive full of information on how assorted public servants have had their legal costs covered over and above the normal channels.
He's already disclosed he's got some problems with how these arrangements have been made over the years. The deeper he gets into them, the more unlikely it is his concerns will be allayed.

lleyne@timescolonist.com

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/technology/Leyne+column+Questions+linger+Rail+corruption+case/5718279/story.html#ixzz1dsyxPguU

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And here's another good one ...

Basi-Virk audit blocked

 'Independent reviewers' cite lawyer-client privilege

By Keith Fraser
The Province - November 16, 2011

Auditor-General John Doyle is heading back to court in a bid to get access to documents related to the government's controversial $6-million legal payments in the Basi-Virk case.

In July, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Greyell ordered the B.C. Attorney-General's Ministry to turn over all records related to the deal. But in a second petition filed in court this week, Doyle claims that some key documents haven't been released.

And he seeks to have two Victoria lawyers who were appointed to vet the legal bills in the Basi-Virk case provide their records to him.

The petition says that Doyle is completing the planning stage of an audit of the indemnity policy by which Dave Basi and Bobby Virk got their legal fees paid as government employees.

But Doyle claims that access to many documents over which the Attorney-General's Ministry claims either cabinet or solicitor-client privilege have been restricted.

Documents have either been delayed, edited or not released at all, slowing and hampering the audit process, he says.

"Full and unfettered access is fundamental to an auditor's role in scrutinizing the management of programs, services and resources he or she is auditing," he says.

The petition names two Victoria lawyers, Sandra Harper and Robert Jones, who were appointed as "independent reviewers" to vet the Basi-Virk bills.

But efforts to obtain documents in the possession of the lawyers were rebuffed when counsel cited solicitor-client privilege, Doyle says.

{Snip ... }

The ministry says that it will not refuse to give the access sought by Doyle as soon as a declaration is made that it may provide such access.

After only a few witnesses had been heard at trial, Basi and Virk pleaded guilty to breach of trust in connection with the $1-billion sale of B.C. Rail. They received conditional sentences.

kfraser@theprovince.com twitter.com/keithrfraser

© Copyright (c) The Province



Read more HERE:

http://www.theprovince.com/Basi+Virk+audit+blocked/5717866/story.html#ixzz1dt5drbe9

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Comments:
unreal.

"The ministry says that it will not refuse to give the access sought by Doyle as soon as a declaration is made that it may provide such access."

what the hell does that mean, exactly?
 
They don't want the truth out, and how they've wasted millions of taxpayer's dollars on their "friends" rather than look after and put the tax dollars to education (schools), disabled people, seniors, hallway hospital beds etc. where it belongs and what the citizens of this province expect it to go to, not their gangsters.
 
Isn't it ironical, that the Auditor General may be the one that causes the BC Liberal government to fall due to it's own excesses and dishonesty.
Ha, it would be great if the main stream media could give this problem as much attention as they do to the photo ops that Clark gets.

I might be wrong, but I am sure that the BC Liberals will self destruct - thanks to the wicked and evil ways of our former disgraced premier - Gordon "Pinocchio" Campbell (the phsycopath). I am sure he will be wondering what on earth he can do to stay out of jail in the near future!!

Thanks
 
the bc liberals will fall off the map next election. a lamp post could beat them this time, which is about as smart as the collective ndp are.

but alas, its times to clean out all these flakes. HEED FIRST!!
 
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