With three years left in her term, Auditor General Carol Bellringer has tendered her resignation, five days after releasing a panned report into expense policies and practices at the Legislative Assembly.
theBreaker.news has learned from an Office of the Auditor General source that Bellringer, B.C.’s auditor general since September 2014, will work until the end of the calendar year. After the Legislature opens for its fall sitting on Oct. 8, members will strike a committee to find a replacement.
Bellringer’s analysis of spending by the offices of the clerk, sergeant-at-arms and speaker was slammed as insufficient by Speaker Darryl Plecas in an exclusive interview with theBreaker.news. Plecas had originally proposed that an auditor from outside B.C. conduct a forensic audit into his office and the offices of Clerk Craig James and Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz, who were suspended with pay last November because of an RCMP corruption investigation. The all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee did an about-face and assigned Bellringer the task.
When she released her first report on Sept. 19, Bellringer admitted she did not conduct a forensic audit and that she found no evidence of fraud.
“A forensic audit would put a file together that could be handed over to the RCMP, that just wasn’t the nature of the work that we did. We were looking first in this particular audit and in this report to let the Legislature know where they had policy gaps. It’s an important framework piece,” Bellringer said on Sept. 19. “When the word forensic audit is used in conversation I’m not always sure what people are meaning by it, because it is a specific term used when you’re putting those sorts of files together. You have to have something to look into before you do so.”
Plecas said in a Sept. 20 interview that he had meetings with Bellringer and her staff, to call attention to matters that he alleged were criminal. He originally proposed an audit dating back to 2012, but Bellringer only examined 2016 to 2018.
“I think the auditor general was quoted as saying she found nothing unusual and nothing which would indicate any kind of criminal wrongdoing and any kind of fraud. I just have to say that boggles me,” Plecas said. “I’ve seen what I describe as full-blown fraud, with my own two eyes, discussed it with other people and ultimately turned it over to police. I’m just astounded there was no wrongdoing found there.”
Bellringer, also on Sept. 19, admitted that she had not heard of the uncontested allegation in Plecas’s scathing January report to LAMC that James and Lenz did not declare purchases of goods while traveling to Canada customs or pay customs duties.
During the conference call, theBreaker.news asked Bellringer: “Why should taxpayers have faith that you’re actually looking out for taxpayers’ interests?”
She replied: “I’m not going to answer that question.”
Bellringer was paid $303,665 to oversee a staff of 129 with a budget of almost $18 million last year.
She came to B.C. from Manitoba, where she was that province’s auditor general for 12 years and Winnipeg’s city auditor for six months. She previously worked in management at KPMG offices in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.
Bellringer took over from interim auditor general Russ Jones, who spent 16 months in the position after the May 2013 departure of John Doyle. Doyle returned to Australia after a BC Liberal dominated committee chose not to reappoint him to another six-year term; the committee relented and offered him two more years. Bellringer was the first auditor general appointed to a non-renewable, eight-year term.
Last November, James claimed he did no wrong, but retired in disgrace in May after he was found in misconduct for misusing taxpayer funds. Lenz remains suspended with pay, but his fate could be decided in an upcoming report about alleged Police Act violations by Doug LePard, former deputy chief of the Vancouver Police Department.
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