B.C.’s auditor general cannot fulfill his duty if he is blocked from seeing the deal that paid $6 million in legal bills for two government aides who pleaded guilty to corruption, the BC Supreme Court heard Monday.
A five-day hearing before Chief Justice Robert Bauman began with opening statements by Louis Zivot, representing Auditor General John Doyle. The government has refused to show Doyle the indemnity agreement, claiming it is protected by solicitor–client privilege.
Zivot said the reluctance of the government to hand over the documents greatly hinders Doyle’s role as the watchdog over the public purse. “He should be given all the tools,” Zivot said.
Doyle wants to know why the government ignored policy and paid legal costs for Dave Basi and Bob Virk after their surprise guilty plea on October 18, 2010. They claimed their innocence for more than six years over allegations they sold confidential government information to a bidder for BC Rail. Doyle is working on a report about government indemnification policies.
Zivot said Doyle’s performance audit has three objectives:
- to find out whether the legal and administrative framework is based on sound reasoning and transparency,
- to determine whether the framework is effectively managed and appropriately authorized; and
- to establish whether current reporting requirements are sufficient.
"The auditor general doesn't want to get into a debate every time, whether there is privilege or an issue of privilege,” Zivot said.
If he has to, then “his audits will be significantly impeded,” Zivot said.
John van Dongen, who quit the B.C. Liberal caucus in March, was granted intervenor status in the hearings.
“The process of special indemnity appears to be something of an ad hoc process,” van Dongen said. “There is a lack of accountability and checks and balances.”