HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY MANAGEMENT COMMISSION
A meeting of the House of Assembly Management Commission was held in the Legislative Chamber, on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.
Present were: Chair, Hon. Kevin Murphy, Mr Gordon Wilson, Hon. Geoff MacLellan, Mr Chuck Porter, Hon. Labi Kousoulis, Mr Tim Halman, Hon. David Wilson and Mr Neil Ferguson, Chief Clerk.
Regrets: Hon. Chris d’Entremont
Also present were Gordon D. Hebb, Q.C., Chief Legislative Counsel, Deborah Lusby, Director of Administration, Office of the Speaker and Annette M. Boucher, Q.C., Assistant Clerk.
1) Minutes of the September 12, 2017 meeting
It was moved by Mr Tim Halman and seconded by Hon. Geoff MacLellan that the minutes of the September 12, 2017 meeting be approved as circulated.
2) 2016-17 Audit Report and 2017-18 Audit Plan
These reports were presented to the Audit Committee on September 19, 2017 and were circulated, in advance of this meeting, to the members of the House of Assembly Management Commission.
Ms Lusby indicated that the Auditor General issued three unmodified opinions in the 2016-17 Audit Report as follows: 1) that the internal controls of the House of Assembly are operating effectively; 2) that the House of Assembly’s expenditures are in compliance with the House of Assembly Management Commission policies and the policies of the Public Service for the year ending March 31, 2017; and 3) that the House of Assembly was in compliance for the last General Assembly (October 3, 2013 to March 31, 2017).
The Auditor General stated that the 2016-17 audit was a clean audit and that there are no matters requiring the issuance of a management letter.
The 2017-18 Audit Plan will focus on risk and in particular assessing fraud risk, including evaluation of the House of Assembly’s response to the new Provincial Fraud Policy. Additional testing will be done on management override and newly elected MLA expenses during the audit period to ensure compliance.
In response to an inquiry from a member of the Commission, Ms Lusby indicated that a full-day training session was conducted on June 20, 2017 to familiarize new MLAs with expenses, budgets, claim forms, compensation and the functions of all House of Assembly divisions.
A further question was asked about the status of changing MLA’s indemnity schedule to a monthly payment – Ms Lusby reminded the Commission members that the Province of Nova Scotia Payroll Client Relations recommended the monthly payment of MLA indemnities in order to better meet the House of Assembly Management Commission Regulations that refer to monthly payment of the indemnity. Mr Ferguson indicated that a decision had been made at a governmental level to not proceed with the monthly payment of MLA indemnities at this time.
It was moved by Mr Gordon Wilson and seconded by Hon. Geoff MacLellan that the 2016-17 Audit Results be accepted.
3) Provincial Fraud Policy
Ms Annette M. Boucher, Assistant Clerk, informed Commission members that the Government of Nova Scotia Fraud Policy was effective June 1, 2017. She noted that all public servants are bound by the policy and that they are required to complete an online module regarding the Policy.
Ms Boucher indicated, as had Ms Lusby at the previous agenda item, that the Auditor General’s 2017-18 Audit Plan will be examining the House of Assembly’s response to the Fraud Policy. Because of this, the Audit Committee sought an opinion from the Office of the Legislative Counsel as to whether the Fraud Policy applied to MLAs. The opinion received is that the Policy does apply to MLAs. The authority for this is found at subsection 11(2) of the House of Assembly Management Commission Act that states: “The administrative, financial, management and human-resources policies and procedures of the public service of the Province apply to the House of Assembly unless it is reasonably necessary for them to be changed or varied”. There has not been any variation or change to the policy made by the Commission, therefore the opinion is that the Policy does apply. In light of this opinion the Audit Committee recommends that the Commission make the decision as to whether the MLAs be required to complete the online module that supports the policy.
Ms Boucher indicated that it was therefore up to the Commission to make the decision of whether the MLAs should complete the online module regarding the Fraud Policy.
It was moved by Hon. Labi Kousoulis and seconded by Hon. Geoff MacLellan that MLAs complete the online module regarding the Fraud Policy.
In terms of timing, Ms Lusby indicated that the goal for completion of the online module would be March 31, 2018 as the Auditor General indicated that this will be focused on in the 2017-18 audit.
The Chair extended thanks to the staff of the Speaker’s Administration for their work relative to MLA expense claims – he noted that the Auditor General validated their work by finding no flaws in their work or procedures.
4) Financial Update
- 1st Qtr 2017-18
- 2nd Qtr 2017-18
Ms Lusby pointed out that the indemnity and expense allowance was increased due to transition allowance payments to MLAs who were not re-elected in the May 2017 election. Should the additional expenses related to the election exceed the budget a request for an additional appropriation from Treasury Board will be made, but that is not expected at this time. She pointed out that the third quarter review will be more meaningful as a more detailed forecast has been prepared given the Province’s budget was not approved until passed by the House of Assembly in the fall.
It was moved by Hon. Geoff MacLellan and seconded by Mr Gordon Wilson that the quarterly reports be accepted as presented.
The meeting adjourned at 4:30 p.m.
These minutes were approved by the Management Commission on January 23, 2018.