With BC NDP MLA Jenny Kwan under fire for spending boatloads of taxpayer money – over $35,000, it seems fitting that the month of March happens to be Fraud Prevention month in British Columbia. Unfortunately for British Columbian taxpayers, fraud wasn’t prevented this month.
A damning audit revealed this month showed that executives and board members from the Portland Hotel Society, a non-profit organization that runs InSite, a safe injection site, used funds to go on lavish vacations. This will go down as one of the worst examples of waste we have seen in this province’s history.
Amongst those who made expense claims was BC NDP MLA Jenny Kwan whose ex-husband is Dan Small, former PHS executive. Kwan told reporters last week that she is repaying those expenses. But the damage has been done.
My recommendation (and it’s a fair one) to MLA Jenny Kwan: Resign immediately.
MLA Jenny Kwan’s Spending Spree
Kwan mentioned her Disneyland trip and then later revealed the full totals. She said she was assured by Small that he had paid the “family portion” of the trip. It wasn’t – and ended up coming out of taxpayer pockets. Kwan claimed she didn’t know but I have a hard time believing that.
It’s offensive that someone as experienced in the BC political landscape as MLA Jenny Kwan would steep to new lows. But at the same time, level of experience didn’t stop Linda Reid. (More on her in my next post)
The Portland Hotel Society was contracted by the Provincial Government to help those in need in Downtown Vancouver’s East Side. The funds being used are taxpayer dollars that would’ve gone to helping those less fortunate. Instead, they helped elite government officials have a good time in foreign countries.
Here’s what MLA Jenny Kwan spent taxpayer dollars on:
- $8,323 for a United Kingdom trip
- $3,175 for a Bristol tirp
- $5,950 for flight tickets
- $4,100 for transportation
- Over $10,000 for a trip to Vienna
- $2,600 for a trip to Disneyland
Sounds like a great trip!
The Portland Hotel Society Audit Report
The Portland Hotel Society report was another damning piece of evidence of political cronyism. It listed a number of “questionable expenses”. The PHS is an organization that is supposed to support and aid some of Vancouver’s most impoverished citizens. But the depth of waste in all of these ridiculous expenses has British Columbians shaking their heads.
Among the “questionable expenses” identified by the report are:
- $678.23 for a limousine trip for 11 individuals from Fairmont Pacific Rim to Grouse Mountain and then to a PHS director’s house.
- $8,657.96 in limousine charges by an executive director in 2013.
- $8,323.22 on travel to the U.K. to look into heroin prescription programs and for other business purposes, including a hotel room costing £478 ($887) per night and a £35 ($65) charge for flowers.
- $5,850.20 on travel to Austria to teach harm reduction practices including one night in a luxury king-size room at $549 per night.
- $3,175.12 on travel to Bristol for business purposes, including one £288 ($535)-per-night room and one £420 ($780)-per-night room, and charges relating to alcohol and spa services and £25 ($46) on flowers.
- $1,636.51 at a restaurant for a staff appreciation event.
- $2,694.95 for the Disney Resort Grand Anaheim for two adults and two children, including a room upgraded to accommodate a director in poor health.
- $5,950 on Transat Holidays. No receipt or documentation was provided for this transaction.
- $8,900 spent on a minibus and driver in the United Kingdom.
- $917.83 for a staff baby shower.
- $1,807.68 for a staff Christmas dinner.
- $7,024.72 for a celebration of life for a deceased employee.
- $1,600 in monthly expenses charged to PHS by the executive directors for use of office space within the residence they share. In addition, improvement expenses such as cabinets were also charged to PHS.
- $5,832 reimbursed for the purchase of a Danube cruise made on what appears to be a personal credit card of a PHS director.
You can access the full report here.
Political Implications Of MLA Jenny Kwan’s Taxpayer-Funded Spending Spree
Various insiders, advisors and communicators close to the BC NDP are coming out on her side. Some, like David Schreck have called for MLA Jenny Kwan’s resignation.
How will the BC NDP be able to talk poverty, ethics and accountability ever again when they’ve got Jenny Kwan running around the world expensing trips? Not only is this ethical malpractice, it’s political malpractice. As I’ll detail in my next piece, this isn’t limited to just those on the BC New Democrat side of the aisle. It also applies to the BC Liberals.
All of this throws an unfair blanket draped across the social and non-profit housing sector and moreso on government projects. Surely not every organization is like this – or are they? Do they all require audits to make sure that funds are being used fairly? BC Conservative Party leadership candidate Rick Peterson has called for a “roving forensic auditor” in order to prevent this from happening again. This would basically be a ‘swat team’ of auditors going through public accounts to ensure that this lavish spending doesn’t occur – and if it does, it’s not charged to the taxpayer’s bill.
Jenny Kwan’s offensive spending habits have caused her to take a leave of absence to deal with the “trauma”. Her constituents in Vancouver-Mt. Pleasant will be without an MLA, without representation. If I had it my way, that would be permanent. She should have been the whistleblower on this nonsensical wasteful spending that has been known to come out of Victoria of late.
MLA Jenny Kwan ought to resign.