I am not about to defend these expenses, all government expenses deserve scrutiny and some of these do seem excessive, but the story does raise a few additional questions.
Peter MacKay, Julian Fantino and former minister Jean Pierre Blackburn have their drivers listed as exempt staff and therefore no overtime is paid out. Sounds like a smart move. As exempt or political staff their hours are allocated by the Chief of Staff and it is the Chief of Staff who reviews their expenses and signs off on them. In other words, as both the drivers salary and expenses are coming out of the minister’s office budget there is direct oversight.
Some of the questions I have centre around what happens when the driver is a departmental employee and not a member of the minister’s exempt staff?
- Who does the driver submit their hours and expenses to? Is it the minister’s office or the department?
- Does the Chief of Staff still sign off on the worksheets submitted by the driver?
- Does the driver submit the worksheet directly to a departmental supervisor?
- Why must it be overtime pay as opposed to time off?
- If the department didn’t red flag driver overtime to the minister’s office, who is responsible, the department or the minister?
- Another related issue of course is the number of drivers and cars? Do junior ministers of state need one? If the junior minister falls under a senior minister couldn’t they use the same driver?
- What about cars and drivers allocated to senior departmental officials such as deputy ministers and PCO officials. Let us see their numbers too so that we can compare.
One way or another, someone needs to review the expenses and the system needs an overhaul.