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October 3, 2007

KMPG Investigation Censored

On March 30th, 2007, the Globe & Mail published allegations concerning former Deputy Minister of Finance, now ICBC CEO, Paul Taylor. The allegations were contained in an email from a lobbyist with whom Taylor enjoyed a fishing trip on August 23, 2003. In the Legislature the NDP used Question Period to ask the government about the allegations only to be told that an independent investigation was being conducted by KPMG. Finance Minister Carole Taylor, answering for Premier Campbell, refused to release the terms of reference for the investigation. My freedom of information request for the terms of reference resulted in mostly blank paper, but it did reveal that Jessica McDonald, Deputy Minister to the Premier, did not write KPMG regarding the allegations until the day the story appeared in the Globe.

The public deserves to know the terms of reference for that investigation. The Premier promised to release KPMG's report, subject to protection of privacy considerations; however, in lieu of the full report, a 14 page summary has been prepared by KPMG and posted to an obscure section of the Premier's website. The summary says:

"The reader is cautioned that in accordance with our reporting instructions, this letter has been prepared to provide a high-level summary of our findings and it omits much of the detailed findings found in our Detailed report as a result of privacy concerns. In particular, we have not incorporated interview and other evidence we gathered regarding the relationships between individuals, the specific text of the Email and much of the interview evidence addressing the specific passages contained in the Email. This represents a significant limitation on our ability to report our detailed findings but it does not impact the findings set out herein in terms of Influence and the Standards of Conduct."

KPMG cannot be faulted for following the government's instructions, but without the release of the full report it is a stretch to ask the public to accept its conclusions. How can the public know whether KPMG's terms of reference were adequate? The summary discusses limitations of its investigation at length, including inability to contact a witness, inability to review emails, inability to obtain phone numbers, inability to obtain complete listings of phone calls, inability to obtain Mr. Taylor's personal cellular phone records and inability to review the contents of a folder Mr. Taylor brought to his interview with KPMG. The NDP has focused on those limitations and is likely to ask a few questions when the Legislature finally resumes sitting on October 15th; don't be surprised to see Premier Campbell stonewall questions regarding the KPMG investigation. The government that promised to be BC's most open is anything but; it daily sets new records for government secrecy and refusal to disclose information.

Page 9 of KPMG's summary discusses the content of the Email, and notes:

"In reference to the fishing trip on August 23, 2003, Mr. Taylor could not specifically recall the event occurring or the specific conversations that occurred. Other evidence we obtained regarding the event was consistent."

Maybe Taylor went on so many fishing trips that he can't remember them all, but you might think that one that is referenced in a controversial Email that warranted an independent investigation by KPMG would stimulate some recollections.

The conclusion of the KPMG summary states:

"We will not assume any responsibility or liability for any costs, damages, losses, liabilities or expenses suffered by the Government as a result of the circulation, publication reproduction, use of or reliance upon our report, which is not consistent with the restrictions above, the scope of our mandate and the terms of our engagement contract. We will not assume any responsibility or liability for any costs, damages, losses, liabilities or expenses incurred by anyone else as a result of the circulation, publication, reproduction, use of or reliance upon our report." (emphasis added)

Nice try, but the courts would determine questions of liability. KPMG's reference to "restrictions above" is to the reporting instructions imposed by government. Campbell broke his promise, made in the Legislature on May 29th, to release the full review, including the terms of reference. I have submitted a freedom of information request for the engagement contract cited by KPMG. An open government would post the contract to its website, rather than delaying for months before releasing pages that are blanked-out.

 
 

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