Friday, June 30, 2006

Lets Talk Public Inquiry

If you believe we need a public inquiry into the operations of the House of Assembly, click on a link to the right. There is:

Since Wednesday, June 21, 2006 the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been appalled by allegations of gross financial improprieties and mismanagement within the House of Assembly. Former government house leader and natural resources minister Ed Byrne resigned from cabinet after Auditor General John Noseworthy revealed that Byrne and three other current or former members of the House of Assembly are being investigated for overpayments totaling more than $1 million on constituency allowances.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary are currently investigating.

In addition, a former financial officer of the House of Assembly is alleged to have made improper payments totaling $2,651,644 to four suppliers, including one which he owns personally. Auditor General Noseworthy has turned his findings on the payments to suppliers over to the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Justice. The RNC is investigating this as well.

Premier Danny Williams responded quickly to the charges. He has:

  • Asked for and received the resignation of Ed Byrne
  • Asked the Hon. Derek Greene , Chief Justice of the Newfoundland Supreme Court trial division, to review and recommend how members of the House of Assembly should be compensated.

This is not enough.

The Auditor General has limited scope to investigate these matters further. He has freely admitted that he only investigates to the point where he is satisfied something is amiss and then turns the matter to others.

The legal system through police investigation and judicial court action (if it goes that far) will focus their attention on any possible criminal wrongdoing. Justice Greene's mandate is confined to the issue of MHA compensation from this point forward. He will not examine what happened in the past.

All these actions, while laudable, will not bring to account all those responsible, nor will it exonerate those who acted properly. A cloud of suspicion will remain over current and former members of the House of Assembly. That cloud will damage the credibility on politicians who are entrusted with making serious decisions on our behalf as residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The only way to get to the bottom of what has happened, fully account for the handling of public money and start the process of restoring confidence in the legislature is through a public inquiry. The Premier's sincere desire to find out what happened and fix any problems is shared by everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador.

A public inquiry is the only way to go.

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