Saanich mayor cautiously optimistic about provincial plan for municipal auditor

Premier Christy Clark last week made good on a campaign promise, saying a municipal auditor would be established by the province to help highlight cost savings measures.

  • Aug. 15, 2011 8:00 a.m.

The prospect of a municipal auditor-general coming in and inspecting Saanich’s books is a great resource, says the mayor.

A former longtime business owner, Frank Leonard says auditors help provide productive options to improve practices within a company. In Saanich, that would “help us see if there’s something we could do better,” Leonard said.

“Part of the bias I have is from my experience in business. I’ve never seen an auditor as an adversary, I see an auditor as a resource.”

Premier Christy Clark last week made good on a campaign promise, saying a municipal auditor would be established by the province to help highlight cost savings measures.

“More than half of our municipalities have populations under 5,000,” said Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Ida Chong, who is currently Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. “They don’t have the capacity to do value-for-money audits or performance audits.”

Saanich, with a population of 113,000, doesn’t fit into that category. For a municipality our size, Leonard can’t see the auditor coming in to look at the operating budget. Rather, he anticipates audits of services or projects.

“A better use of their time would be to look at a particular service, say policing in Greater Victoria, which is expensive, or a project like building a bridge or an LRT or a sewage treatment plan, and audit that expenditure to see if taxpayers got value for their money,” Leonard said. “The provincial auditor or comptroller general don’t usually look at the day-to-day operating budget, but if (a municipal auditor) every knocked I would never be reluctant, I’d say ‘Come on in.'”

Leonard isn’t championing the auditor-general idea just yet, though. His colleagues at the Union of B.C. Municipalities need clarification on the idea.

“(UBCM executives) stressed that local governments have a strong interest in a robust accountability system. Questions (the UBCM) has posed about (the need for a municipal auditor general) should not be taken as questioning the need for local government accountability,” said a press release from the UBCM.

If there is concern about the accountability of municipalities, the UBCM says there could be better alternatives than a provincially mandated auditor general.

“In past years initiatives have been collaborative (between the province and UBCM),” Leonard said. “I think this got off on the wrong foot. It was an announcement (from the province) taken as ‘this is going to happen,’ so everything subsequent (by the UBCM) is a reaction. They’re tripped up on the process, which doesn’t appear to have been collaborative.”

Chong’s office has sent out a survey to municipalities and regional districts across B.C. The survey asks municipalities if an auditor should have authority over other local bodies as well.

The B.C. government took similar steps to oversee school districts, imposing common payroll and personnel systems on boards of education and appointing “superintendents of achievement” to monitor district efforts to raise student performance.

– with files from Tom Fletcher

kslavin@saanichnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria police investigating chop-shop found in Beacon Hill Park

Police asking public to register bikes with them in case lost or stolen

Island Health issues Victoria overdose advisory

Health authority warns of increase in overdoses from opioids and stimulants

Residents welcomed to The Summit in Victoria’s Quadra Village

Modern 320-bed facility designed for people with complex care needs including dementia

Victoria considers extending free transit passes for youth

Motion for extension of funding comes to council July 16

Recent surge in COVID-19 cases not unexpected amid Phase Three of reopening: B.C.’s top doc

Keep circles small, wear masks and be aware of symptoms, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. NDP changing WorkSafeBC regulations to respond to COVID-19

Employers say reclassifying coronavirus could be ‘ruinous’

Statistical flaws led to B.C. wolf cull which didn’t save endangered caribou as estimated

Study finds statistical flaws in an influential 2019 report supporting a wolf cull

Beloved Island woman dies at 106

Dorothy Adair adored by the many people she met in Chemainus in two short years

Man arrested for allegedly pushing unsuspecting seniors, jumping on cars at Parksville mall

Cops arrest man after ‘aggressive incident’ at Wembley Mall in Parksville

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

Most Read