Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Duffy Show–Budget Motivations

The Senator Mike Duffy trial continues, exposing more of the compost heap.  For those not fully apprised of the contents of the testimony so far, here’s a reasonable recap

If you’re too lazy this Saturday morning to click a link, this is the short form:  Duffy as a Senator gets a budget to about $150,000 a year for the office and research.  Like all Parliamentary budgets, it’s on the basis of use it or lose it, meaning come March 31 any money left gets pulled and you start April 1 with a new pile of money for the office and research.  So if you’ve had a lazy year and spent most of it making puppies, there is this budget number that seems to demand you spend it. 

In the simplest of fiddles, you order a bunch of stuff and make sure the invoices all say March 31.  The budget used up, everyone goes on their merry way and some buddies get cash for oh, communications consulting? 

Having been on the vendor side more than a few times, we used to call it March Madness.  There were stories about companies that would ship boxes of phone books or bare chassis computers to the client that would arrive, be received and the appropriate weight duly entered into the books.  Since it was on the government shipping dock by March 31, it was deemed delivered, the invoice duly paid and as long as nobody looked to hard, life went on.  Speechwriting and research contracts?  As long as someone in the office said they got the document, the invoice was paid.  Long after March 31 would some kind of actual item truly arrive, but as long as there was something in their hands by March 31, the appropriate dollars were allocated from the appropriate year’s budget.

This speaks to exactly how people are motivated by budgets.  If you don’t use what was allocated to you by intelligent, sensible mandarins who know better than you ever will, then you obviously don’t know your job, so they reduce your budget the next year, usually by the amount you didn’t spend the year previously.  (/sarcasm on) After all, the wise and brilliant above you would never over-estimate what was needed, as they are intelligent, skilled, diligent guardians of the public purse, who have their fingers on the pulse of all public spending, with extensive systems, checks, balances and audit reports from consultants that back up every dollar allocated. (/sarcasm off)

Or, if you’re in the Senate, you take the unused portion of your budget and write up a contract to your buddy for a report called “The Age Wave” and have it paid for through another company, say Maple Ridge Media or Ottawa ICF, who got the lion’s share of the budget and also probably charges a fee to the Senator for ‘editorial services’ or ‘contract management’, takes their percentage over and above, then strokes you a cheque, not from the Senate, but from a private company. 

On the Hill, this is perfectly normal.  In private industry, this is called a ‘fuzz job’ as the source of the money and the reason for the money being spent is made as fuzzy as possible, preferably through several layers of companies.  Or, you could call it money laundering, but that has such a distasteful connotation doesn’t it? 

Which is why Duffy’s fitness trainer, Mike Croskery was on the stand in Ottawa last week.

Now, we do know some of the players in this game.  Gerry Donohue used to be the NABET (National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians) regional union rep at a joint called CJOH-TV.  He was the lead negotiator on the NABET contract and in the late 80’s/early 90’s just a negotiations were starting up, was amazingly and remarkably hired by the company to be their Human Resources guy.  So you had the situation of the previous union rep sitting across the table, as the company rep, during a contract negotiation. 

If this strikes you as a conflict of interest, then you don’t know Gerry Donohue. 

Needless to say CJOH-TV no longer exists, having been absorbed into Bell Media, gutted, populated with interns and turned into a low-rent cable access channel with tower space on the array at Camp Fortune.  Duffy used to work out of CJOH-TV back in the day and that’s most likely how he met Donohue.

Which is also why this trial for Expense Fraud and General Assholery is so much fun to watch. 

Duffy is being hung out to dry because there is no real expense oversight in the Senate.  As long as you don’t try to put your Miniature Weimaraner on the payroll, everything else, is fine. 

The rot starts at the budget office, with the negative implications of actually saving the taxpayers some money off the various budgets.  To turn it upside down and make saving budget a positive incentive, herewith our solution.

If you as a budget manager use smart thinking, creative use of suppliers, shrewd negotiations in keeping with the general Federal guidelines, act fairly and ethically, and manage to come in under budget, you personally get a cash bonus of 2% of the savings to divy up with your team.  The job still gets done, the things get procured under the usual standards and if you can save money, there is no implied penalty of having your budget slashed the next year. 

Budgets change every year, so if one year you didn’t need $100,000 worth of infrastructure improvements that were budgeted for and managed to safely stretch, maintain or otherwise do with what you had, instead of burning money because you could, you’d get a taste.  If the next year, you really needed to spend $150,000 to keep up, then no problem.  Over time, the government would come out ahead, spending when it needed to spend, based on the judgment of those who actually do the job, not on the uninformed esoteric guesstimates of bureaucrats and their consultants in their isolated silos of self-importance and business card title dick measuring. 

Duffy, having been duly briefed by the Senate Budget Office, as to what he can and cannot claim, does what any punk would do, looks for the loopholes.  He goes looking for the very specifics that say You cannot do X.  As soon as you see that they specify X, but not Y, bill for Y.  Which explains why Gerry Donohue became the defacto Royal Canadian Bank of Duffy to hide expenses under the general catchall of ‘communications and research’.

A good auditor, knowing that the Senate is populated by fart-catchers and bagmen for the party should be on high alert for exactly those kinds of fiddles, that in their former lives, the good Senators did as a matter of course, with no more moral baggage of ‘doing wrong’ than loading up on bacon at the breakfast buffet.

The wise betting line is that the Right Honourable Stephen (Call me Stephen) Harper will let this show trial play out, as a sterling example of how totally screwed the Senate is, and fortuitously add a plank to his fall campaign to remove the Senate, using Duffy as the poster child for what is wrong with the Senate and why it should be s-canned.

With any luck, it will distract the public from the real mess, Bill C-51 or the Ministry of Finance’s three-card montie trick of a balanced budget by deferring all spending to 2017.

Charleston and Duffy

We’ve got a bit of a two-fer today, as both events are causing us great vexation. 

First off Walter Scott being gunned down in North Charleston, SC.  If you haven’t seen the video of Walter Scott being shot by a police officer, here it is.  Aside from the obvious attempt of the officer to plant something and the fact they officer was charged not with manslaughter, or self-defense, but straight up murder, and the racial stink that permeates the whole thing, there is one more vexatious point:  How can a trained police officer fire eight rounds at a target moving away from him at no more than 30 feet and only hit the target once?  Where did the other seven rounds go?  The Projectile Fairy didn’t capture them and put them under the officer’s pillow that night, of that we’re fairly certain. 

Which tells me the North Charleston Police couldn’t train a goose to shit, let alone teach their officers how to use the spectrum of force and when to increase the amount of force used with a subject.  That’s Policing 101, usually about Day 2 of rookie orientation.  For those who don’t know about the spectrum of force, here’s a good discussion

From our perspective as a citizen it’s simple enough to follow.  Simple presence of the uniformed officer, a commanding voice and attitude, hand control, active restraint, or baton, then chemical (OC spray, or Mace) electrical discharge weapons like a Taser or a Beanbag Shotgun, then the firearm.  Notice the escalation, from simple, loud, commands (“Stay in your car and drop the keys out the window”) to pulling the sidearm and everything in between.

There are exceptions of course, based on the situation.  If you pull over a guy and he gets out of the car with a shotgun and brings it up, you tell them drop the weapon and get your firearm ready to go, as the suspect has escalated things (Suspects don’t necessarily care about escalation of force protocols) and you have to react appropriately, immediately.  We’ve got no problem with that, at all. 

The Walter Scott shooting is another thing.  That went from an out of shape 50 year old with no obvious weapon or threat to the officer, running away, to an officer planting evidence after firing a clip at the suspect.  Had it played out sensibly, the officer would have got back in his car and followed Walter Scott for another 200 yards until he ran out of run and collapsed on his own.  Cuffs, backup, done with minimal paperwork and less fuss. 

Was Walter Scott in fear for his life?  We don’t know, but the dashcam footage showed a reasonable traffic stop and a compliant citizen who panicked in front of a cop with less experience with spectrum of force than my dog.  At least the dog has the smarts to back off when the cats give that low, rumbling hiss that translates across species into “Eff Off!”  We would also strongly recommend that every officer in North Charleston go back to the range and prove they can actually hit targets, center of mass at 10, 20, and 50 feet.  We don’t need idiots sending rounds all over the neighbourhood because they can’t shoot straight and that includes the police.

Senator Mike Duffy’s trial for Expense Fraud and charges of General Assholery is in its first week.  Up here our Federal Senate is populated by appointment of the Prime Minister.  It’s a reward for being a fart-catcher with rules that are looser than Amish sphincters after a binge-eat at the All You Can Eat Burrito Bar at Applebee’s.  Hiring a convicted serial rapist as your personal assistant is considered bad form, but that’s about it.  The caveat with this kind of demented-emperor oversight is that you say good things about the government and every program they bring forward is simply wonderful for all Canadians. 

Did Duffy go jowls-deep in the feed trough?  Sure he did; all the Conservative appointees do, just like all the Liberal appointees did when the Liberals were in power.  Up to the elbow in free trips, expense fiddles, hiring cousins with no work experience, or the easy fiddles of simply not showing up for work for two years at a stretch, but someone managing to cash the paycheque from your cushy digs in Mexico.  No committee work, no endless bladder-crippling meetings, no Question Period, nothing more exhausting than flying to Vancouver to do a 20 minute speech about how a government program is simply wonderful, words pre-written by the PMO and delivered with the standard half-hearted enthusiasm of a long-time party hack who has been phoning it in since 1988.  Then there is the crippling stress of having your assistant file the expense claims, which can only be relieved by flying to a foreign climate to rest and recuperate, on the taxpayer’s dime.

To be frank, our Senate is a joke beyond redemption that costs us millions of dollars every year for the members of the chamber of Sober Second Thought to roll around in the trough.  We get more value for money from the Dominion Carillonneur when she plays K’naan’s Wavin’ Flag on the Parliament Hill bells.  At least you can walk by the Hill and go, “What the heck is that song, holy crap, it’s that World Cup thing!  Kewl!”

With luck the Duffy Show will play out as expected just before our upcoming Federal Election in October.  The Harper Government will be painted accurately as mean-spirited micromanaging bullies.  Then the voting citizens will be confronted with a choice of None Of The Above on our ballots.