Backbench MLAs will soon be subject to some of the same disclosure standards as cabinet ministers beginning this fall.
As a response to the B.C. Auditor General's condemnation of the legislative assembly's bookkeeping, the committee in charge of expense oversight has promised to open the books on MLA expenses every quarter as of October.
"The committee has full confidence that all MLAs have submitted receipts for their expenses as required," said a statement from the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. But these reports will be posted online to "provide more openness to British Columbians." Currently, these amounts are released only on an annual basis.
MLAs who hold cabinet positions, such as both Prince George representatives Justice Minister Shirley Bond and Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell, have their travel expenses posted every month on the Open Information website.
"I think taxpayers expect and deserve to know the kinds of expenses that MLAs acquire," said Bond, who supported the committee's decision.
Bell was also in support of the announcement, saying he believes "in the principle of openness and accountability and [he's] always happy to have that model."
According to the financial statement the government released last week, Bell spent $95,553 on travel last year, while Bond spent $61,405.
Bond said her office has a principle of finding ways to be prudent while travelling, but there's a cost of doing business in a large province where a representative's constituents expect to see them regularly.
"We live 500 miles from where the legislature is. So travel is necessary and so is having a functioning constituency office," she said. "It costs more to do business where we live and I think people expect that."
But she said taxpayers also expect there to be a level of transparency and that MLAs are not making extravagant decisions.
The move to publish quarterly comes after Auditor General John Doyle's report last week of "substantial irregularities" in the financial accounting procedures following his 2012 audit of the Legislative Assembly.
"The audit identified a large number of significant and serious issues," Doyle said about his report. "As a result, I am unable to conclude as to whether the amounts recorded in the financial records we examined are correct."
Legislative comptroller Dan Arbic said he does not yet know what the quarterly disclosures will look like.
"They decided yesterday they were going to do that," he said, adding that the necessary information is readily available, but how it will be presented to the public hasn't been determined yet.
A day before the Auditor General's report was released, the Ministry of Finance published its public accounts for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2012.
At its release, Finance Minister Kevin Falcon highlighted a provincial deficit of $1.84 billion, which was said to be more than $650 million less than the amount forecast in February.
But Doyle's assessment was that the deficit may actually be $520 million higher since the financial statements were not "prepared fully in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards."
While Bell said the criticism was concerning, he stressed that there were no implications that MLAs were inappropriately using public funds and that the complaints revolved more around accounting procedures.
"I think that's probably a fair criticism and something that is easily resolvable," he said, adding he thought the non-partisan committee had responded appropriately.