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Dingwall may sue Tories for mischaracterizing his expenses 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 3:00 p.m. October 26, 2005]

OTTAWA  — David Dingwall was again defiant and threatening to sue opposition MPs on Wednesday after an independent special review of his expenses while he was president of the Royal Canadian Mint found that most of his expenses were in accordance with Mint policies.
The review by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that in 1994 Dingwall's office had expenses of $747,597. But almost two-thirds of that ($549,572) was for salaries and benefits of Dingwall and his staff.

An additional $40,776 was for office expenses such as office supplies, training, telephone, courier and printing services. 

Dingwall's travel, meals and hospitality total was $157,249, not the $747,597 that the opposition and the media had suggested.

Conservative MP Brian Pallister said in question period on the day Dingwall left that Mint that he had "spent over three-quarters of a million dollars on numerous lavish dinners, excessive international travel, a free car and a swanky limousine, and let us not forget the exclusive golf club to which taxpayers paid for him to belong."

In an interview with the Canadian Press, Dingwall said the review "completely exonerates" him of wrongdoing and suggested he may sue opposition MPs who alleged he did anything wrong. 

The review also examined four specific expense matters that made headlines, including the much talked about $1.29 package of gum that Dingwall submitted as an expense.

During his appearance before a parliamentary committee last week, Dingwall said, "I'm confident that the independent auditor will show unequivocally there was no payment for the Royal Canadian Mint for gum,"

The review said the receipt for the gum was included in Dingwall's travel expense claim but was "removed from the calculation."

"The reason for the removal was because Mr. Dingwall was authorized to claim an incidental allowance of $20 dollars a day to cover such items," the review said. 

The Mint's incidentals allowance covers "personal costs such as gratuities, beverages, snacks, toiletries, snacks, toiletries, magazines, newspapers, etc."

"Mr. Dingwall was paid the incidental allowance for the day, but was not specifically reimbursed for the package of chewing gum," the review explained. 

The review also backed up Dingwall's claim that what was described as $5,800 "meal" at the Brookstreet Hotel in Ottawa was actually an "executive retreat" for 24 Mint personnel that ran two days. The bill included "food, beverages, room rental and audio/visual equipment rental."

However, the review discovered $2,570.66 in expenses that Dingwall must reimburse the Mint, including $286 used for personal couriers, $2,050 in airfare considered personal and $283.32 for an "unsupported cash advance."

Dingwall also received $2,500 in overpayments on his $1,000 monthly car allowance due to an administrative payroll error. 

Despite the review and Dingwall's threat to sue, the Conservatives did not back off on their criticism. 

Pallister held a press conference to criticize the terms of reference of the review and said the rules of the Mint allowed Dingwall to spend freely. 

In the House of Commons, Revenue Minister John McCallum fought back for the first time in weeks and said Pallister was "bogged down in misinformation." 

McCallum noted another independent examination of the Mint's corporate governance released Wednesday found that the Mint's rules go "well beyond what one could expect to find in most private sector corporations.''

Speaking with reporters Wednesday Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said the Conservatives expected the review to largely clear Dingwall, but noted that it was a "transactional audit" not a "value-for-money audit."

Harper said the Liberal government will now "use this audit as a way of trying to justify a severance payment that Mr. Dingwall has no legal entitlement to."

Dingwall has hired lawyers to ensure he receives what he describes as his "entitlements." 

He told MPs last week that although he knew there was nothing wrong with his expenses he resigned shortly after they became public knowledge to protect the Mint from a "firestorm" of controversy.

Dingwall described opposition and media obsession with the expenses of public servants, politicians and political appointees as "the heroin of politics these days."

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