COMMENT: From Pringles to the Royal York, Partnerships BC CEO spares no expense
At a time when public confidence in government is at historical lows, the B.C. government should follow Ontario’s lead and have the expense claims of senior government employees reviewed by an independent office to ensure they meet both the government’s guidelines and the public’s smell test, according to IntegrityBC.
IntegrityBC made its recommendation after reviewing the expense claims of Partnerships BC CEO Sarah Clark, which it obtained via a freedom of information request.
Clark claimed $7,445 in expenses in 2011-12, three times more than the $2,155 claimed by Infrastructure Ontario CEO David Livingstone during the same period. In 2012, Partnerships BC’s operating expenses were $7.9 million, compared to Infrastructure Ontario’s $70.7 million.
From expensing a $3.39 can of Pringles on an air flight, to $77.68 for a new passport, to meals at some of Vancouver’s finest restaurants, to nights at five-star hotels, Clark spared no expense.
Clark expensed $3,600 for meals in 2012, including at least six with, or accompanied by, Partnerships BC chair Larry Blain for a total cost of $555. Under Ontario’s expense guidelines, hospitality expenses are not reimbursed when they only involve “people who work for the government.” David Livingston claimed $57.52 for meals in 2012.
In the first nine months of 2012-13, Clark billed a further $3,090 for meals, including $739.50 for what’s identified as a Partnerships BC staff and board dinner at Toronto’s posh Lee Restaurant last November.
In 2012, Clark earned $250,000 and received $3,775 for parking, a $10,000 car allowance, pension benefits of $25,325 and a bonus of $25,000, according to the Crown corporation’s 2012 compensation guidelines.
Partnerships BC manages the planning, delivery and oversight of major infrastructure projects, including the Port Mann Bridge/Highway 1 Improvement Project and Victoria’s sewage treatment plant. According to its website, Partnerships BC’s core business includes: “Manage an efficient and leading edge organization that meets or exceeds performance expectations.”
In Ontario, the Integrity Commissioner reviews expenses for cabinet ministers and party leaders, key Crown corporation board members and senior public employees.
As part of the Premier’s open government initiative, IntegrityBC is also calling for greater disclosure of expenses through the posting of all relevant reports and receipts on ministry, agency and Crown corporation websites.
Dermod Travis is the director of Integrity BC.