September 1, 2014
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The finger pointing over ministerial travel expenses is ramping up at the Saskatchewan legislature with the government and Opposition suggesting each may have misused taxpayers money on trips.
Premier Brad Wall says taxpayers were on the hook when former NDP premier Lorne Calvert and industry minister Eric Cline went to Paris in 2006.
Calvert and Cline had business meetings, but Wall says documents show they also used a rented van for a sightseeing tour and charged taxpayers. Ground transportation for the trip was expensed at about $1,900.
"It wasn't obviously acceptable for it to happen for our government,'' Wall said Tuesday. ``It's also not acceptable for it to have happened under the New Democratic Party.''
But the NDP says the documents show that a staffer paid cash for the tour and did not expense it.
NDP Leader Cam Broten says he spoke with Cline and Calvert and they don't recall details of the trip.
"And if the premier has something that they should see, the premier could easily send that over to them and I know both of them would look at that and if something was inappropriate, they could take the steps that they felt were necessary to address it,'' said Broten.
However, Broten argues the government is really trying to deflect attention from travel expenses made by Social Services Minister June Draude on a trip to London and Ghana.
"It's a trip to Ghana which still has no purpose that I can tell and no benefit to Saskatchewan taxpayers, to Saskatchewan residents,'' said Broten.
Draude attended a conference on fetal alcohol awareness while in Ghana. A friend and a family member went on the trip, too.
The minister has been under fire in the legislature for using a car service in London that cost $3,600 over four days and for $200 spent on lunch with a friend.
Those expenses were filed by Rick Mantey, cabinet secretary and the clerk of executive council, who booked the car and accompanied Draude on the trip last June. Draude said she wasn't aware of the costs until last Wednesday when the NDP released documents it got through a freedom-of-information request detailing the trip.
It was revealed Monday that Mantey booked the same car service while in London with Finance Minister Ken Krawetz, shortly after the Draude trip.
Krawetz was meeting with senior bank officials in London. But the car service was expensed for one day when Krawetz didn't even use it because it was a day off from meetings.
The cost of the two bookings for the car service was $7,016.77.
Mantey has repaid that expense and the $200 lunch. He has also been placed on probation for six months and can't travel or book travel.
Wall says his government has followed the same policies that the NDP used, but the system is flawed.
"It's not an optimal system to disclose to people the cost of a trip and it's not an optimal process because ministers may not know the things that are being booked.''