Thursday, September 13, 2012

BASI-VIRK: Auditor General battles in court to get access to government indemnity documents

Auditor General John Doyle's difficult road to get access to Basi-Virk/BC Legislature Raid legal indemnity documents faces government roadblocks
David Basi - far left - and Bob Virk - far right after entering guilty pleas in October 2010

In a nearly empty BC Supreme Court room where there are more government-paid lawyers - seven at least - than either media members or public observers, a serious legal street fight is being waged over access to confidential government documents sought by the independent Auditor General.

At stake - accountability to taxpayers and transparency in the expenditure of millions in government funds.

Specifically, Doyle is attempting to find out how the $6 million legal fees of David Basi and Bob Virk were paid by the government despite the two former BC Liberal Ministerial aides pleading guilty to breach of trust and fraud charges.

Government officials can be "indemnified" for their legal fees if they face charges related to the conduct of their duties - but only so long as they are found innocent.

In the BC Legislature Raid case, Basi and Virk admitted receiving money and other benefits in exchange for leaking confidential government documents related to the $1 billion privatization of BC Rail to lobbyists working for one of the bidders.

But in addition, there are nearly 100 other cases of government employees receiving millions in legal fees for indemnification.

And it appears there are no clear policies or even guidelines on how these funds were spent.

That is the purpose of Doyle's attempt to conduct a value for money audit - but it has been steadfastly opposed by the government.

On  Wednesday at court in front of Chief Justice Robert Bauman arguments for Doyle were made by lawyer Louis Zivot, who stated that the Auditor General Act was clearly drafted to give Doyle access to whatever government documents his office needs to conduct audits.

The key argument against letting Doyle have confidential files is that it violates solicitor-client privilege, but Zivot rejected that claim.

"It was intended by the legislation that the Auditor General have full access," Zivot told Bauman.  "The legislation could have been drafted to exclude legal expenditures."

"If we have to negotiate with the attorney general as to what we can have and how we can have it, it will impede the Auditor General," Zivot said.

"It is absolutely necessary that the Auditor General have access to all these documents," he said. "While a good deal of focus is on Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk... they are only two of the hundreds of recipients of indemnities."

The records that have been given to the Auditor General have been severely severed or redacted, effectively rendering many of them useless, Zivot said.

"Some pages are virtually black - you can't tell who conversations were with - these are insufficient for auditing accounts," Zivot said.  On the lectern in front of Zivot observers could clearly see a document with blacked out pages.

In concluding, Zivot warned that a decision against Doyle would not only negatively impact the BC Auditor General's powers but those of other provinces as well, who have very similar legislative authority.

"Essentially this is a very important matter for the Auditor General of British Columbia but also for other auditor generals," Zivot said. "A finding that the Auditor General does not have these powers would have an adverse effect on the Auditor General, other auditors general and auditors."

NOTE TO READERS - Veteran lawyer Roger McConchie made powerful arguments on behalf of BC Conservative MLA John van Dongen later on Wednesday.  Those arguments and an interview with van Dongen will be the subject of my 24 Hours/The Tyee column on Tuesday September 18 - along with other information from the hearing on Thursday and Friday.

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15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for attending the court sessions and relating the news back to us.
I appreciate it!

RossK said...

Mr. T.:

Specifically, Doyle is attempting to find out how the $6 million legal fees of David Basi and Bob Virk were paid by the government despite the two former BC Liberal Ministerial aides pleading guilty to breach of trust and fraud charges.

Gosh, I thought the very fine former public servant, whose is now an even finer legal strategist paid by the public, Mr. Geoff Plant, explained it all to us on his 'blog' awhile back when he wrote the following in his 'Dear John (van Dongen)' letter:

"... But it was understood that with guilty pleas (from Mess'rs Basi and Virk), the claim to fee recovery would be waived..."


_____
Need a little context? Those interested can find it here.

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maidman1 said...

Has Adrian Dix and the NDP come out in promising to release the documents to the Auditor General if they form the next government?

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'm glad I'm just an ordinary rocket scientist!
This is much, much too complex for me!
So, we the people, have hired Doyle to find out whatever shenanigans went on between Basi/Virk and we the people's elected representatives.
Our elected representatives say "Whoa, no way. That contravenes B/V's soliciter client priveledges."
But B/V says "go for it. We have no objection."
So, why do we, the people, need 7 lawyers to tell us we can't do what everyone agrees we can/should do?
Makes me thankful that I'm just a simple rocket scientist! Can you imagine what would transpire if this got complicated?

Giepher said...

It is paramount that the general public gets the whole truth and nothing but the truth surrounding the Basi/Virk issue. Criminals should not profit by their crime nor should they be given public funding for their legal fees and must pay it all back, if they do. This case does not pass the smell test and will no doubt lead back to the politicians who were involved and also need to be held to account for their actions.

Anonymous said...

First there was no criminal conviction in a court of law of anyone in regards to BC Rail.

Second, much of the "truth" has been already been explored and discussed on Bill's blog and also at Tsakumis' blog. Blend both and you'll get pretty much what happened.

Also I wonder if John VanDongen is using this for publicity as he was
part of the parcel when BC Rail went through. There has to be other reasons other than "getting at the truth" for him to be spending a rather large sum of money at this.

It's interesting too that VanDongen is now a "hero" but if he wasn't doing this, many bloggers would still consider him to be BC Liberal slime.

Quite hypocritical isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Intresting how political "shills" come out of the woodwork, during this type legal "street" fight.

The people of this province, deserve to see how their collected tax monies are spent, by whom, and for the benefit of whoever.

This entire scandal "reaks" of political involvement, at the highest levels. Using taxpayer funded lawyers to keep party officials and insiders from being revealed in documents and financial reports outlining government spending is criminal.

What really needs to be done now, is the establishment of a full blown judicial enquiry, with the power to subpeona, and recommendation for criminal prosecution, should the facts and the outcome of the proceedings warrant them. If any form of malfeasance is "proven", these issues must be dealt with fully, with the criminal prosecution of the individuals involved.

Democracy does not give politicians or anyone for that matter the right, to hide documents or records behind a legal smokescreen. Especially if those documents, relate to the workings of taxpayer funded government payouts, for whatever reason.

Maybe it is time this province had an Independent Crime Commision, to oversee these matters, in light of the lengthy and onerous court delays.

Anonymous said...

"What really needs to be done now, is the establishment of a full blown judicial enquiry, with the power to subpeona, and recommendation for criminal prosecution, should the facts and the outcome of the proceedings warrant them. If any form of malfeasance is "proven", these issues must be dealt with fully, with the criminal prosecution of the individuals involved."

That was an interesting statement.

In one of the opening lines, the poster wrote:

"Using taxpayer funded lawyers to keep party officials and insiders from being revealed in documents and financial reports outlining government spending is criminal"

At this point, no crime has been proven. But he goes on to write:

"If any form of malfeasance is "proven", these issues must be dealt with fully, with the criminal prosecution of the individuals involved."

Which is correct. The premise here is being found and proven guilty of an action which under the Criminal Code of Canada is considered a crime, and therefore the guilty person or persons are criminals



Democracy does not give politicians or anyone for that matter the right, to hide documents or records behind a legal smokescreen. Especially if those documents, relate to the workings of taxpayer funded government payouts, for whatever reason.

Very true, the Casino scandal of the NDP proves that as does Bingogate, and the federal Liberal's Adscam.

The NDP are no saints when it comes to friends and insiders either.

Seems to many that bother to follow the BC Rail story that the blog contributors have already decided who is criminally guilty without such being actually proven in a court of law.

Inquiry? Perhaps, but not a long one and not one that costs a significant amount of money. Powers of supeonea? Not nessesarily
unless there is a specific crime involved.

No sense in making it a circus just to entertain and keep busy two blogs and those who contribute to them.

BC has alot of important issues to contend with that need more attention.

Anonymous said...

Full and complete inquiry is needed with ability to recommend criminal charges , it is the only way to end the corruption we have seen and ensure that future govts know they can be help to account

Anonymous said...

"Full and complete inquiry is needed with ability to recommend criminal charges , it is the only way to end the corruption we have seen and ensure that future govts know they can be help to account "

Depends on the mandate of the Inquiry. Many inquries do not have the power to explicity recommend charges. Such charges must have enough evidence so that the Crown Prosecutors can go ahead with such action.

If there is an inquiry, and political wrongs are found, but not to the degree that criminal charges are recommended, would the blog contributor still support the premise of the inquiry (i.e. the actual holding of an inquiry not a perceived outome).

Would the blog contributors still support the inquiry if their findings are not what the blog contributors expected? Or is this going to continue to be a windmilling of inquiries until such time as an outcome is found that is accepted by the blog community?

Inquiries are there to search and examine facts and to summise a fact filled reasons of outcome. They are not court trials.

Again I am in favour of an inquiry, but one based on finding out reasons of outcome, not having it become replacement for the courts.

Plus one that is efficient.

It's not as entertainment for blog contributors.

DPL said...

I don't think the inquiry would be for the entertainment of blog contributors. It would be to find out just who knew what, when and who did or did not do certain things.Did they operate independent of everyone else or not.In the early stages , one Cabinet Minister stated he hardly knew Basi, even though the guy was his shadow with a place just outside the Ministers doorway. The premiers right hand man finally got on the stand and had instant amnesia . If the standard procedure was to cover expenses of government employees if found not guilty and to not cover the expenses if guilty.Basi Basi and Verk were accused of a number of things. Verk was finally excused but the other two after years stalling, plead guilty. Simple question. Why was the normal procedures not followed and will we ever know?

Anonymous said...

"I don't think the inquiry would be for the entertainment of blog contributors. "

Seems to be at this point. The opinions are more of the same kind of complaining than coming up with something new.


"It would be to find out just who knew what, when and who did or did not do certain things."

That's pretty much been covered by Tsakumis' blog.


Did they operate independent of everyone else or not.In the early stages , one Cabinet Minister stated he hardly knew Basi, even though the guy was his shadow with a place just outside the Ministers doorway."

That's nonsense. In terms of knowing Basi on a detailed level,
probably, but in reality it is the M.A's that trade back and forth amongst the Ministries no matter what party is in power. That one Minister would know Basi existed.

"The premiers right hand man finally got on the stand and had instant amnesia . "

It's called "selective recall". It's a tactic. Nothing new. Also
he can tell truth, but not give
away the entire story.

"If the standard procedure was to cover expenses of government employees if found not guilty and to not cover the expenses if guilty.Basi Basi and Verk were accused of a number of things."

Stupidity obviously wasn't one of them.


Verk was finally excused but the other two after years stalling, plead guilty. Simple question. Why was the normal procedures not followed and will we ever know?

Do we care? or is it just a few bloggers want to vilify?

Most citizens out there aren't that concerned about it.

C'mon DPL, think. A probable deal was cut.

Plead guilty now and get the legal bills covered and every one including the Province is spared the high cost of a court trial
and everyone goes home at the end of the day.

One thing both Basi and Virk are guilty of is incredible stupidity.

Both should have jumped out. They both realised where this thing was going, but kept inside the railway car until the train stopped at the station.

DPL said...

It seems there is a devils advocate on this blog, who likes to repeat most of the comments made by others. All very well I guess but again its just one persons position. It's not just a few blogers that want to know what went on.It's been in the public eye for a long time and senior NDP folk have said they want to get to the bottom of it. Those 6 millions are our money, and it should have been used for so many other things that have been ignored. Most of the main stream media has been slow to take a position on the 6 millions spent. They did manage to print misleading comments about BC Rail being a money loser when the records show plainly that was not the case.

I really enjoyed reading an article of a couple of days ago in the National Post about comments made by the Liberal Leader that were made sometime ago but just this week became public.Even the local paper here in Victoria showed her comments and now the local CBC was busy getting comments . Yes the trial was a while back but its strange ending makes a lot of people wonder just what else is not being told.It's not my position to agree or disagree that a deal was cut. That's up to an inquiry

Now I'll wait till anon decides to dissect and select bits that he or she wants to dispute.

Bill Tieleman said...

Thanks DPL - yes, I have had complaints from several posters about Mr or Ms Cut, Paste & Complain and I have to say it is becoming tiresome. Make your own points it's not a legal case where you need to cite others arguments to criticize them - and move on. Or just don't bother commenting.

Anonymous said...

Well let's do continue on.

It is still interesting that many blog contributors constantly state they hate the MSM but still as there is one example here, makes reference to reading the National Post and the Times-Colonist.

As for citiing, fair enough, I've had my comments sliced and diced, here but it doesn't bother me. I consider it to be part of the debate.

Guess I am not as sensitive as one particular blog contributor here is.

and yes so let's move on. Let's begin by the hints that Shane SImpson made about rescinding secret ballot voting when it comes to union voting in the work place, shall we?

or how is Adrian going to pay for all the things the NDP supporters want?

There's more out tehre than just BC Rail, and perpetually whining about Christy Clark. The NDP is poised to be government, so let's go through and see what it is they want to do.