CTV broke the story last week that the Prime Minister’s Office helped Conservative Senator Mike Duffy to pay back more than $90,000 in improperly-claimed expenses to Parliament, but the PMO initially wouldn’t explain the circumstances including where Sen. Duffy got the money or what role Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff Nigel Wright was, exactly. The PMO said only that “no taxpayer funds were used.” CTV’s Bob Fife then broke the sensational news that Mr. Wright wrote a personal cheque to Sen. Duffy for $90,172 in order for Sen. Duffy to pay back the taxpayers of Canada his dubious and ineligible housing expense claims made since he was appointed to the Senate four years ago. But it didn’t end there. It was also revealed that Sen. Duffy possibly collected Senate allowances while campaigning for the Tories in 2011 and that he was allegedly lobbying for the Sun News, which has since distanced itself from Sen. Duffy. On May 9, the Senate’s Internal Economy, Budgets, and Administration Committee ordered Senators Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb to repay more than $48,000 and $51,000, respectively, in housing allowance claims made on primary residences within 100 kms of Parliament, which the two Senators claimed were their secondary residences. Both Senators plan to challenge the legality of the order. On April 19, the Senate’s Internal Economy Committee issued a press release that Sen. Duffy had reimbursed the Receiver General of Canada for $90,172.24 in living expense claims. Conflict of Interest Commissioner Mary Dawson announced that she was investigating the transaction on May 15. Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard is requiring all Senators to update their disclosure of gifts under the Senate’s Conflict of Interest Code. The RCMP confirmed that it was investigating the Senate expense claims prior to the report on Mr. Wright’s involvement in Sen. Duffy’s case. But in March, when Sen. Duffy repaid the expense claims, he also stopped cooperating with the independent Deloitte auditors. Jean Fournier, former Senate ethics officer who called the situation “fluid, confusing, and sensitive situation,” also said it was “essential” for the government to clear the air “ASAP.” Andrew MacDougall, the Prime Minister’s director of communications, told reporters last week: “The Senate is facing some very real challenges and it behooves us to see some improvement in the Senate … to maintain confidence in the Senate as an institution. Obviously, there are some outstanding questions and our office is in contact with the Office of the Ethics Commissioner for one angle, and so Sen. Duffy has some questions to answer.” This story is extremely damaging to the Senate and to Senators. As one Conservative told The Hill Times, the Senate’s now “obliged to start burning the furniture to save itself. It’s fighting gangrene now, because the Senators know how bad this is, so they’re going to just start cutting parts off, piece by piece.” Prime Minister Harper owes the country answers on this sordid story. So does the Senate. This jig is up.