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Bev Oda refuses to explain tinkering with expense claims

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda refused to reveal Thursday whether she has reimbursed the government for more of her international travel, after some of her expense claims were modified.

Ms. Oda paid back the government last month after it was revealed by The Canadian Press that she had rejected one five-star hotel in London in favour of the swankier Savoy at double the cost.

She had also used the services of a car and driver at a cost of $1,000 a day, and purchased a $16 bottle of hotel orange juice.

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The cost of that London trip has now been modified on a government website that posts the totals spent on airfare, hotels, meals and hospitality.

But the dollar amounts associated with some of Ms. Oda's other travel to places such as Haiti and South Korea have also been modified. The changes were first reported this week by CBC News.

Such modifications are not unusual, happening as accounting bodies within departments reconcile their books.

Neither Ms. Oda nor her office would respond directly to questions about whether she had made any reimbursements beyond the London trip. Details on the travel are generally not made public except through access-to-information requests.

"I can confirm that all incremental costs, which should not have been expensed, have been repaid," said spokesman Justin Broekema, without referring to a specific trip. "This means only eligible expenses have been paid by the government."

Ms. Oda was asked about the matter during question period in the House of Commons.

"She was caught hiding outrageous limo expenses. She has been caught and had to pay back for her rock star trip to London. Now we find she has been changing the travel claims for her latest round of trips," said New Democrat MP Charlie Angus.

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"Canadians play by the rules, but the government seems to think it is above it. My simple question is, what is the minister trying to hide this time?"

Ms. Oda did not specifically address the issue of the modified travel claims.

"Mr. Speaker, all incremental costs that should not have been expensed, including extraneous car service, etcetera, have been repaid," the minister said.

"Only appropriate expenses, eligible expenses have been paid by the government."

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