Political travel expenses frequently under fire

Times-Herald Editorial Staff
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June Draude has vowed to pay back a $3,634.33 tab she racked up on car service during a trip to England in June 2013

Saskatchewan Social Services Minister June Draude is the latest politician to face questions stemming from her expenses.

Saskatchewan’s minister of social services, Draude was in London for a series of events, including a conference on fetal alcohol syndrome. She also visited Ghana.

Cabinet ministers often take international trips and rack up expenses, which sometimes include car service expenses.

On this occasion, however, the Opposition NDP bombarded Draude with a series of questions during Question Period at the Legislature Thursday.

Premier Brad Wall answered most of those questions and backed his minister, saying her expenses were relatively low.

Cabinet secretary Rick Mantey, who accompanied Draude on her trip to England and Ghana, also accumulated expenses, including $4,366.43 in flight costs.

He has been put on probation for six months.

So what does this say about government personnel charging taxpayers advertently or inadvertently to foot the bills for their abroad expenses?

First off, it shows that there is much more transparency in the way government expenses are reported and claimed.

This isn’t the first time a politician or member of the bureaucracy has been pressed for answers following a sizable bill charged to taxpayers.

Former Alberta premier Alison Redford was recently forced to pay back a bevy of expenses she racked up when she took Progressive Conservative staff to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Suspended Saskatchewan senator Pamela Wallin was forced to repay after she left taxpayers with a bill for various travel expenses from 2009 to 2013.

Second, when any politician passes bills on to the taxpayer, it’s going to raise questions about that individual’s honesty and integrity.

The public wants answers for what some voters perceive to be a lapse in judgment and others a sneaky way of saving a few dollars.

In Draude’s case, it doesn’t appear — at least not right now — that the public is clamouring for her head.

In an attempt to avoid a similar expense scandal, Wall noted formalized policies for checking with foreign affairs on the best transportation issues for government trips will be adopted.

Whether or not the new policies prevent unnecessary government expenses from being charged to taxpayers in future remains to be seen, but this shows the Wall government is at least taking steps.

What is known is more politicians are being questioned about their travel expenses in Saskatchewan and across the country.

That is a good thing.

All editorials are written by the Times-Herald editorial staff.

Organizations: Times-Herald

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Ghana, London England Alberta South Africa

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