Prime Minister Stephen Harper insisted Thursday that he did not know about – nor was asked to sign off on – the arrangement that saw his chief of staff cut a personal cheque for $90,000 to Sen. Mike Duffy.
Harper, currently on a trade mission in South America, took questions on the Senate expenses scandal for the first time since news emerged about the controversial cheque written by his former right-hand man.
I did not know … (and) I was not consulted, “Harper said, the Peruvian president standing at his side.
“I was not asked to sign off on any such thing, and had I been consulted or known, I would not have agreed with it, and it is obviously for those reasons that I accepted Mr. Wright’s resignation.”
Harper said he learned about the arrangement the same way Canadians did: through media reports. At that point, “I immediately asked that that information be released publicly,” he said.
He also described himself as “sorry,” “frustrated” and “extremely angry” about the whole mess, which has engulfed his government and threatens its carefully cultivated image as a pillar of accountability and sound financial management.
The payment allowed Duffy to stop co-operating with an external audit of his expenses – an audit that has since been referred back to the same Senate committee that has already reviewed its so-far-incomplete findings.
The affair is also under investigation by the federal ethics commissioner.