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More allegations of questionable accounting from Duffy as critics step up attack

QMI Agency

OTTAWA — New allegations that Sen. Mike Duffy claimed questionable expenses during the 2011 election lit another fire under the critics on Parliament Hill, who are demanding the Senate ethics officer launch an investigation into Duffy's mysterious repayment of $90,000 in inappropriate housing allowance claims.

An audit by Deloitte showed Duffy had claimed expenses while on Senate business during the 2011 election, on days when other documents show he was campaigning for the Conservatives and billing those campaigns for his expenses, CBC reports.

The audit also indicated more than $1,000 in per diems he claimed while on a holiday in Florida.

The latest revelations come after the Prime Minister's Office said Wednesday that Nigel Wright, the prime minister's chief of staff, cut a personal cheque to Duffy so he could return housing allowance money he shouldn't have pocketed.

That conflicts with an e-mail Duffy sent to CTV a day earlier in which he wrote that he took out a bank loan to repay taxpayers $90,000 in March, and that Wright played no role.

On Thursday, PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall indicated Stephen Harper wasn't aware of Wright's generosity, but stood by his comments from Wednesday that Wright wrote Duffy a cheque because the senator — who owns two homes — couldn't afford to pay.

The PMO wouldn't offer documentation to back up the claim.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus called the newest allegations "troubling" and sent a letter to the Senate ethics officer to demand an investigation.

"Apart from the troubling fact that someone else is paying for Mr. Duffy's mistakes, it appears that in receiving this so-called 'gift' the senator may have breached several ethical rules of the Senate," Angus wrote.

Gifts over $500 must be reported within 30 days, according to the Senate's conflict of interest code.

"The fact that Mr. Duffy has now claimed that Mr. Wright 'played no role' in his financial situation only increases the need for a speedy probe," Angus continued.

The federal ethics commissioner said she would probe whether any rules were broken.

The RCMP is examining outside audit reports from last week to determine whether a criminal investigation is warranted into Duffy; Patrick Brazeau, a former Conservative senator suspended with pay from the Senate because of assault charges; and Mac Harb, who was appointed as a Liberal senator in 2003 but now sits as an independent.

A Senate committee has instructed Brazeau and Harb to return $48,000 and $51,000 in housing allowance money respectively — a request both have refused.

 

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