OTTAWA – The first week of Mike Duffy’s trial drew to a close with the court hearing that a lack of clarity in the Senate’s rules and regulations extended to how senators were expected to spend their annual office budget.
The upper chamber’s former law clerk took the stand for a third straight day and Mark Audcent told the court that senators have broad discretion to hire whomever they like to work in their offices.
He also explained that if contracts are tendered for research or other services, proof of that service isn’t required.
The debate about the rules on contracting and hiring is related to the fact that a friend of Duffy’s received four contracts worth a total of $65,000 — work the Crown alleges was never performed.
Duffy’s lawyer Donald Bayne told the court that the rules around contracting are so vague that an internal Senate committee recommended in 2010 they be tightened with more oversight — but the Senate disagreed with that advice.
Audcent has spent much of his time on the stand going over the various rules, policies and guidelines on the business of the Senate.
He was the one who actually drafted many of them over his three decades working for the upper chamber.
Audcent says the process has become more complex over time.
Bayne is arguing that the nature of those rules is what’s at stake in the case against Duffy.
Duffy faces 31 charges, which include allegations that he fraudulently claimed living expenses for a home in an Ottawa suburb.