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.
By Les Leyne
Times Colonist - Nov. 16, 2011
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.
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.
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.
"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?
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!!
but alas, its times to clean out all these flakes. HEED FIRST!!