Crane's attempt to call deputy before public accounts quashed again

Teresa Wright
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Opposition leader says it's issue of accountability to question $8 million in problematic contracts

Transportation Minister Robert Vessey, left, and his chief engineer, Stephen Yeo, appear before the province’s public accounts committee Wednesday. They were there to answer to issues identified in the 2012 auditor general’s report regarding highway construction contracts.

The Opposition’s continued attempts to have the former deputy minister of tourism appear before the legislature’s public accounts and answer to $8 million in problematic contracts were blocked once again this week.

On Wednesday, Crane asked the committee to rescind a decision made during a previous meeting not to call Melissa MacEachern to testify.

Crane said she believes it is a question of accountability, as MacEachern was the deputy of tourism when the $8 million in contracts were awarded.

She pointed to their witnesses from earlier in the meeting — Transportation Minister Robert Vessey and his chief engineer Stephen Yeo — and how detailed questions committee members posed about highway contracts probed by the auditor general in his 2012 report were answered mainly by Yeo.

“We asked him lots of questions about what happened and why did he make decisions at the time, and in the interest of accountability and transparency that’s what I’d like to see (from MacEachern),” Crane said.

In his 2012 annual report, auditor general Colin Younker investigated Tourism P.E.I. and found a lack of controls and oversight in $8 million in contracts it awarded between 2009 and 2011. He noted numerous instances where Treasury Board policy was not properly applied, appropriate signing authority was not sought and some contracts that were not even documented.

Last week, Tourism Minister Robert Henderson and his current deputy, David MacKenzie, appeared before public accounts to answer to these contracts.

Henderson apologized and MacKenzie admitted the issues Younker identified were not isolated incidents but a pervasive and problematic attitude toward contracts among senior staff in the department.

Crane has been trying repeatedly to get MacEachern before the committee to answer detailed questions as to how these problems developed.

Several backbench government MLAs on the committee had previously stated they would entertain the question of calling MacEachern to appear after they heard from the present minister and deputy if, and only if, their own questions were not satisfied.

On Wednesday, those MLAs said they now see no reason MacEachern should be called.

“Last week, I was completely satisfied with the explanations that were given by the minister and his deputy,” said committee co-chair Buck Watts.

“I don’t see any point in bringing in the previous deputy for anything else other than to drag her through the mud, which won’t do us any good. This is not a court of law. We are not cross-examining people here.”

House Leader Sonny Gallant and Alberton-Roseville MLA Pat Murphy agreed.

“Last week, I thought the committee did a good job, and I thought the minister and the deputy minister did a good job of answering the questions,” Gallant said.

“The committee has already made the decision on this,” Murphy added.

But committee chair and Opposition MLA Steven Myers said he has received calls from friends who work within government saying they wish MacEachern would be held accountable for her decisions at public accounts because they feel she’s making all civil servants look bad.

“They’re like saying to me, ‘Why don’t you get her there because she makes us all look bad?’ I try to explain to them that I don’t have that control over this committee to bring in who it is I want,” Myers said.

But in the end, the backbench MLAs on the committee defeated Crane’s motion, once again quashing Crane’s attempt to call MacEachern to public accounts.  

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: Crane's, Treasury Board, Murphy added.But committee

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Recent comments

  • Don Smith
    November 02, 2012 - 21:00

    Nice to see some of you have enough courage to use your real names, I must say I have to agree with Janet,this place is in for some rough times.

  • SG
    November 02, 2012 - 20:57

    What is the purpose of our Vote if we don't hava a Voice on any issue untill the Next Election in four years? Why bother voting? What for? I Pray the Majority of Islanders will Demand Recall Legislation be enacted by the Party of their choice in the next Election or forfeit their vote. Without it we will have no way to hold the Elected Government Accountable. If you want a Voice on all issues that affect Islanders it is our only recourse.

  • Joe Blow
    November 02, 2012 - 19:37

    At least Olive is trying to get to the bottom of the Ghiz governments long list of corruption and patronage. If Jason Lee was leading the PC's....the PNP issue, HST and Plan B would all be swept under the rug to protect his back room boys!! Olive Crane is a great leader of the PC party....if only the Liberals had a leader with as much respect and passion for Islanders...we'd have something worth while. This is another example of why there should never be a majority government allowed EVER!!! A fair government with an equal split between parties is the only true way to govern. I hope Olive continues as the PC leader because she knows the issues that REAL Islanders are concerned about and is trying to get to the bottom of them. At least she is trying to do the right thing....nobody in the Liberal party is doing that.

  • don
    November 02, 2012 - 18:55

    can anyone tell what has a so called engineer got to do with the contracts ? something smells badly.and if MacEachern has nothing to hide then why not come forward to tell the truth or is he forced to keep his mouth shut? again the truth will come in time and i hope that when it does charges can be laid and jail time served.

  • How's an Islander to care?
    November 02, 2012 - 15:13

    We're caught between forces that appear to control the social agenda more than voters, democracy, questioning and common sense combined. The first force is senior civil servants. We know that they're paid by Islanders, but do we know their values, their self-interests or for whom they (actually) serve? The the second force is the "corporate caucus", those major business interests that hold loyalty neither to partisan interests nor the electorate. For example, ask a senior MLA what caused Plan B and they will say, "It was recommended by the experts, our senior civil servants." Ask the civil servants, and they will say it was needed to serve the interests of commerce. (Let's not insult our intelligence by demeaning it with the "safety for Islanders" spin.) So, the big question is - and what Plan B has taught me: How much does it really matter?

  • don
    November 02, 2012 - 14:57

    JANET GAUDET ghizzy does not have to think islanders are stupid they voted him in on the “doctor for every islander” and that is IMPOSIBLE he would have to hire 140,000 doctors but they voted him in and he gave more garbage the second time and they put him in. so yes he knows most islanders are STUPID AND DUMB. And next election he will get in again. they had a chance to get an honest leader in mrs crane but they excepted lie not truth. as she was and will open the books on the PNP and there are lots of big money guys scared of it due to the only reason they have money is PP.

    • Janet Gaudet
      November 02, 2012 - 17:06

      Don, I didn't support him in 2007 or 2011, I'm very glad to be able to state, I knew he wasn't cut out to be a premier but I had no idea in 2007 what a disaster he was going to be. I'm extremely worried about the future of P.E.I.and wonder if there's going to be anything left here for future generations. I'm very concerned about the number of young people who are leaving to find work out west. I've never felt so uncertain about the future of Islanders and have never been so worried as I am right now.

  • Janet Gaudet
    November 02, 2012 - 14:05

    I've never seen in my lifetime so much corruption in a P.E.I. government. This government must think Islanders are very stupid when they expect us to keep swallowing the garbage they're feeding us. I'm so fed up, so disgusted, and so angry with this government I don't know what to do any more. Every day there's something new being shoved down our throats. I wish that we could kick this government out ASAP.

  • lesslie
    November 02, 2012 - 13:52

    we have a(choice) vote n.d.p different pig at through

  • Guy Cousineau
    November 02, 2012 - 13:20

    At one point we need to stop the politics and deal with the real issue: accountability. Laying blame with Ghiz and calling him a crook will not address this issue. I would prefer to believe that our public officials just cut corners rather than deliberately hand out contracts to "friends of the government. Regardless, let us look at accountability and legal recourse. While an appearance before public accounts can be embarrassing, it is no more than a puppet show. Yes the Deputy Minister is accountable for all that happens in the department. However, what matters legally is whose signature appears on the contracts. Everyone who signed saying " this meets all the rules " needs to be held accountable according to the measures and conditions set out in the financial administration and related contracting regulations. If Melissa MacEachern's signature appears on some of these contracts, then by all means drag her in front of the Treasury Board to answer for her actions.

  • Karl Proude
    November 02, 2012 - 12:58

    Don,t worry Olive Crane you have more people behind you then what some think.How does one get things turned to the truth?...Just do what your heart tells you . And if you are successful in this and other endevors Olive, do not let your supporters down.I would be so proud to be able to say" we on Prince Edward Island, do have an open and the most honest party in power in Canada" {Lib,PC,NDP or Green}, and then and only then I could regain my faith in Government. However I do beleive I will be Dead and long gone be for this ever happens. Guess it never hurts to dream ah?

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    November 02, 2012 - 12:52

    Hey, want to buy a hotel cheap? This current government is the laughing stock of Canada. I think at least that Olive Crane and Mike Redmond have some integrity. A lot of politicians start out having integrity and are sincerely motivated to help people, but that usually changes quickly after getting in office. The current Liberal gang are all crooks and liars. Every time they take away another little piece of my freedom, my free speech, or my other rights and I complain they are quick to chime in "Well, if you are not hiding anything show us". So in my opinion they are hiding their illegal activities or else they would show us. The simplest and cheapest way to resolve this is have the deputy minister appear and answer all questions. Vessey and his cohorts are hiding stuff, plain and simple. These politicians are power hungry people. Their motivation is to obtain and consolidate more power, not to help the people. Show me the things that this gov has done for the people. They say they are doing things for the people but they lie, nothing for the people, only for big biz. It sucks. None of these MLA's have a backbone, otherwise they would see the error of their ways, confess, ask forgiveness, and then tackle their gang's failed policies and leader.

    • what ya think bill
      November 02, 2012 - 14:57

      What ya think Bill, have Islanders been planb'd again? Or, is this just honest incompetence?

  • The Truth
    November 02, 2012 - 12:47

    Just a continuation of the corruption and cronie capitalism that the simpletons of PEI have supported since day they joined Canada.

  • Time To Rally
    November 02, 2012 - 12:08

    People need to stand up and yell about this. We have people without jobs and going hungry so these guys can load their bank account with our money. It's time Islanders had a little backbone and stop turning a blind eye to this corrupt Ghiz government. Nothing will change if nothing changes. YOU can be part of the change or sit back and be part of the problem. Olive, you just keep at them. You're the only one who's showing any courage. You Peter Bevan-Baker. Getting arrested was pretty good too.

  • No surprise
    November 02, 2012 - 11:54

    Once again Olive Crane fails to get the job done.

    • exactly no surprise
      November 02, 2012 - 14:06

      Well, it wasn't for lack of trying. A few brave Islanders are rising above the hopeless apathy, trying to break open this closed shop and expose what's really going on in there, before PEI is totally bankrupt and we have to lose our status as a province and become annexed to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia.

  • up easterner
    November 02, 2012 - 11:25

    LORD THUNDERING ????????,These liberals are the BIGGEST bunch of crooks iI have ever seen in any gov. Can anyone do anything to stop these crooks,Ilanders saying wait till next election,WHAT there will nothing left !!!.On another note, you see where MacKinily is headed to China,can you imagine the food bill ,what have you on this adventure. Our previous ancesters in gov.have to be rolling over in their graves!!

  • Merriam Webster
    November 02, 2012 - 11:23

    GREED : a selfish and excessive desire for more of something (as money) than is needed INTEGRITY : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility MALFEASANCE : wrongdoing or misconduct especially by a public official

  • Opition
    November 02, 2012 - 11:08

    I guess this just goeds to show what I was saying in another post re Crane's leadership & the PC party getting rid of her . If they do, they will be offering up just exactly what we are seeing here with the Liberal MLA's blocking the process of finding out what happened to our $8 million . Not worth finding out in the mind's of these Liberals & the PC backroom boy's will be no better . I personally hope Olive stay's at it . It is the only way that our goverment past & present will ever be held accoundable for all the crooked deals done with my taxdollar . It is my money & I want to know why it went missing . A apology alone is not acceptable to this taxpayer . Watt's - Gallant & Murphy you are gutless usless fools sucking off the people of PEI . Shame Shame

  • Montreal inquiry was resisted for years too
    November 02, 2012 - 10:50

    An article on CBC Montreal had a comment on PEI corruption as the highest rated comment, 250 thumbs up and one thumb down with over 100 comments. PEI under Ghiz has swept over 500 million unanswered questions under the carpet. How could the corruption be higher in little old backwater PEI? The mayor did admit the corruption in Montreal only goes back thirty years.

  • Concerned Island Taxpayer
    November 02, 2012 - 10:36

    Here we go again, Olive Crane trying to do her utmost in getting transparency and accountability to the forfront, only to be voted down again by Gallant, Murphy and this Buck Watts guy. Talk about scared to death, this Deputy Minister must be called to end the speculations of wrong doing. My Yeo I believe is from Summeside and hopefully not taking the hit for Vessey, to much hidden agenda here, the Island taxpayers deserve more. Just watch the body language with these guys, Vessey should really get some help with this, he is failing big time, similar to the night he was on Compass.

  • don
    November 02, 2012 - 10:20

    MacEachern what does she know that the big boys are scared of? and i'll give crane points at least she has the back bone to fight for the people. and to think ghizzy said he will HAVE and OPEN government no secrets welol that is a LIE and you keep proving crane correct. ghizzy you are acting like a child grow up and show us you are a man and if there is wrong doing then take what you deserve. but as a child you are scared to prove us wrong. and i think thats why the backroom children of the PC party wants crane out they have secrets and crane will open the books and show there secrets. maybe the backroom PC children play in the same sandbox as ghizzy?

  • don
    November 02, 2012 - 10:12

    well ghizzy all you are doing by not allowing the people crane is asking to attend the "public" accounts committee is showing you have something to hide. and the first word is public we want to know. you are not the public you are an EMPLOYEE of the tax payers when will you stop being a BULLY and grow up stop this blockade you are just as i said hiding something and the only way you can prove otherwise is allow the people to be interviewed.