WATCH: The conservative government says it’s now investigating how much the boss of Canada’s top spy agency spent on business class flights and expensive hotels.
OTTAWA – The expensive spending habits of CSIS’ director are now being reviewed by government officials following a Global News story about Michel Coulombe’s expenses.
Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, told the House of Commons on Tuesday: “This government takes the management of taxpayers’ money very seriously, and I’ve already directed that officials look into this matter.”
Clement made the remark in response to NDP MP Rosane Doré Lefebvre, who said that CSIS case officers looking at high-risk travelers are over-stretched and under-resourced.
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“Does the minister really think this is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds?” she said.
Clement said the government’s travel directive is “very clear: it states that the most economical means is to be selected, given the nature of the trip when booking transportation, accommodations, and meeting facilities.”
It’s unclear if that directive was followed in Coulombe’s case.
The move to review Coulombe’s expenses comes after documents obtained by Global News revealed he billed taxpayers for two nights in a hotel last May for a total of $1,717.28. In July of 2014 he began a three-day stay in a hotel that cost $2,257.48-about $750 per night.
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Canada’s spy agency also spent thousands on flights for Coulombe.
Records indicate that airline tickets for Coulombe’s travel on July 22 and July 30, 2014 cost $15,819.73. Tickets for May 26 and June 5 totalled $10,893.79, while tickets for Feb. 23 and March 4 cost $8,223.16.
Bureaucrats like Coulombe are allowed to fly business class on many trips, but it’s a perk his staff is careful to protect.
A memo last June titled “travel to Edmonton,” shows a staffer asking “why is Mr. Coulombe not coming back business??”
Opposition MPs understand senior officials are allowed to travel in business class, but NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus questioned the approval process.
“Are there any measures in place to say, show us some level of accountability?” he said.
In a statement, CSIS spokesperson Tahera Mufti said, “Everything we do in fulfilling our mandate to protect Canada’s national security interests is done in a manner of utmost professionalism.”
“All members of CSIS adhere to the Government of Canada rules and regulations set forth by Treasury Board Secretariat,” she said.
Unlike most other government departments and agencies, CSIS does not have to proactively disclose expenses online.
– with files from Stephen Davis