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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Well, which is it?

Math's never been my strong suit—in fact, it isn't for most journalists, which is why I'm wondering about the numbers in this story of David Dingwall's "exoneration" from the Canadian Press (via the Sun).

An audit, requested by the mint, by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, writes Joan Bryden, "reviewed expenses of almost $1.8 million over three years, the vast majority of which went to pay salaries for Dingwall and his staff and for administration of the mint president's office."

Then, she writes: "The audit found 0.36 per cent of the expenses were not legitimate . . ."

And then she quotes Dingwall saying: "the questionable expenses amount to about $2,500 and include charges to courier his schedule to his wife in Nova Scotia and a portion of some travel expenses for trips that included some free personal time."

Huh? What's 0.36 per cent of $1.8 million? My calculator says $64,800.

This whole story, remember, is run under the headline: "Audit probe clears Dingwall"

So here's my question: If being caught appropriating $2,500 of public funds is no biggie, according to Dingwall (I'll have to check if the same policy applies at my workplace), then what about $64,800? Is that still ok? I think Canadians deserve an answer: What is the maximum amount of money that a public servant can filch before it's considered a problem?

MEA CULPA UPDATE: Ok. So I was right. Math isn't my strong suit. Especially when I'm trying to crunch numbers at 11:30 at night.

Today, my calculator says .36% of $1.8 million is $6,480—not $64,800. It's still a lot higher than the $2,500 quoted in the story, but I guess it's more likely to fall within the acceptable threshold for public servants to help themselves to and still remain above reproach.

Posted by Kevin Libin on October 27, 2005 | Permalink


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Maybe I should courier this comment to the Shotgun until somebody invents e-mail or faxes....oh wait...!!!

Posted by: Speller | 2005-10-27 11:48:40 PM

Dunno Kevin - maybe the 99.64 % refered to the number of claims and not the amount. e.g. out of 100 receipts submitted 99 were legit. There was one for an airline ticket- for a conference but DD didn't book a return flight home right after the event and stayed in London on holiday thus he should pay a third of the invoice.

If that was the case , most private corps wouldn't say boo about that, because they would have had to pay for the ticket anyway.

Or may be it was simiilar to what happened to me often - I'd go to staples to buy a whole bunch of stuff for the office , plus a couple a reams of paper for my home and throw it all on my visa. A month later I'd get my visa stmt, staple it to the receipt and fill out the paperwork - by then having forgotten that 22.45 was for my own stuff.

Then every few months the bookkeeper and I would get together an do a little reconcilation dance ( e.g okay you owe us 22. 45, but we owe you 8.62 for an underpayment ...wait wait alot of that 22.45 was used for printing work related stuff at home.....okay then , here's a form B-436 I'll need in triplicate and you'll have to submit a C22 voucher along with a photocopy of the original receipt- then pay us the difference now- once we've processed the paperwork you'll get a cheque back for ....
okay okay..forget it it's worth the 14.00 just to avoid the paperwork)

But I digress....

Anyway, perhaps you should , you know, actually read the audit before this turns into another case of throwing a hissyfit before actually " bothering to ask, bothering to seek clarification."

Hey - you might be right, maybe someone goofed on the math but I'm willing to bet it refers to # of claims not $.

Posted by: Nbob | 2005-10-28 1:03:13 AM

Yes indeed - I followed by own advise and actually read the PWC Audit ( well most of it ) . Most important is Appendix A - it sets out the math there for you Kevin in one fairly simple to read page.

Note the auditors used the term "ESTIMATED airfare considerd personal" which is consistent with the above theroy .

Now if I was DD I'd be doing a little reconciliation dance here e.g. " hey I saved the Mint 300.00 by staying over a Saturday night ..it's a win win situation.

As I say- that's pretty standard practice at many firms - in some places it's an explicit perk ( so long as there is no actual difference in the amount of the ticket) even where it's not policy seldom a discouraging word is heard because it's a)- easy to get around ( e.g. I know the seminar ended Sunday, but I had a scheduled meeting the next Friday ) or b) they don't track spending as closely as the Mint does ( according to Osler's
" better than most in the private sector" ) as long as it didn't cost any extra who cares ?

Posted by: Nbob | 2005-10-28 2:00:00 AM

I think there is a margin of error anyway. So .36% is .oo36 which is quite acceptable.

Like the commentators mentioned, companies usually allow a small margin.

I suggest this case was exaggerated for political purposes.

Posted by: Rémi houle | 2005-10-28 4:13:06 AM

I think .36% of 1,800,000 is $6,480. The numbers are still off, but it's not that big a discrepancy.

Posted by: Bob Tarantino | 2005-10-28 7:21:48 AM

Maybe I'm missing something here, but isn't his illegal lobbying, not $1.29 gum, the reason all this got started in the first place?

Posted by: kelly | 2005-10-28 8:44:05 AM

Bingo Kelly!

That $350 GRAND per ILLEGAL lobbying success is what set this all off and has been forgotten in the shuffle.

I'm still waiting for someone, anyone to go after that ILLEGAL activity!

Oh where are those famous Men in Red when you really need them? Well on second thought, ferget it, nuthin for them to see here. Moveon now....

Posted by: Slim | 2005-10-28 9:44:24 AM

Uh, Kevin, on behalf of your workplace, I can confirm that misappropriating $2,500 does count as a biggie.

Just nipping this in the bud, in case you were suddenly looking to the government as some sort of moral role model.

Posted by: Ezra Levant | 2005-10-28 10:08:29 AM

On yesterday's Question Period I believe James Rajotte asked a question about DD's unregistered lobbying fees. Apparently Dingwall denied ever receiving the fees before the commitee.

So Rajotte asked something like "Either Dingwall lied to a Parliamentary commitee or the government recovered $350,000 from the company it wasn't supposed to? Which one is it?"

The Industry minister responded that "They recovered $350,000 from the company because they paid an unregistered lobbyist"

So my question is now. Who was the lobbyist if it wasn't Dingwall? Did anyone else hear this in question period yesterday and is wondering the same thing?

Posted by: Craig | 2005-10-28 11:47:19 AM

Folks, folks, folks...

The real issue is the lobbying, and the severance is all tied up with it. As our estimable Industry Minister has pointed out, the government has "recovered $350K from the company because they paid an unregistered lobbyist."

Do you think the company is just going roll over and say, "Oh Well"? It wasn't Bioniche Life Sciences' job to ensure that their lobbyist was registered. Someone owes them $350K. That's $350K they can pursue in court if they so choose.

It would actually make a lot of sense for them to sue, because if they can't get it from Dingwall personally, they can collect it from the "errors and omissions" insurance that Dingwall is covered by as a member of the NS Bar. Did no one else think it strange that the Mint was paying his annual fees to the Nova Scotia Barrister's Society? It's not as though he was employed by the Mint as legal counsel (that would have made the fees a legitimate expense). The fees were just another one of his executive perqs.

So Dingwall owes Bioniche $350K. Who want's to take a bet that his severance will be suspiciously close to that figure? Does no one remember George Radwanski and his tax problems?

Posted by: herringchoker | 2005-10-28 12:40:13 PM

The Globe & Mail, 2005-10-04:

"The Globe and Mail reported recently that Bioniche Life Sciences Inc. agreed to pay Mr. Dingwall a $350,000 ”success fee” if the company secured $15-million in financing under an Industry Canada program, Technology Partnerships Canada."

ABC (Australian), 2004-11-21:

"[The Austrailian magazine Format] says that the CIA conducted enquiries after receiving information that a holding company of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation had invested $11.4 million in a small pharmaceutical company in the Canadian town of Belleville, Ontario. Format says investigators "stepped on an anthill" when they uncovered the stake held by the Palestinian Commercial Service Corporation in Bioniche Life Sciences."

Posted by: Vitruvius | 2005-10-28 7:20:44 PM

Hate to be a buzz kill by interjecting the facts but -

According to the audit the " recoverable anmount" totals

Of that $ 4.198.35 was a "clerical error" related to payroll and pre-payment of auto insurance where the RCM, pursuant to DD's employment contract, bought a policy that extends into next year. Since he quit he has to pay back what remains DD had nothing to do with those-had no control over them - the "clerical error" is the fault of a clerk ( or computer ) at RMC.

Of the remaining $ 2, 570.66 - 2, 103.87 was allocated as his share of 3 airline tix. As noted above, most private corps wouldn't care becasue they're out that amount anyway but since there was nothing explicit in the RCM guidelines that allows such a practice the auditors could not say that the 2K was "supported"

So really the Mint is actually out a grand total of $ 466.79 that can be atributed to DD. On 1.8 million that is well with in the usual margin of error allowed by the private sector. ( e.g. another example that happened to me - I was at a corporate scmooze when some drunk spilled his drink on me. I put in a claim for dry-cleaning thinking the injury to my suit happened in the course of my employment so they should pay - At first they did but after an audit they came back and said I had to pay it back because I should have gone after the drunk to pay )

Posted by: Nbob | 2005-10-28 8:11:33 PM

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