A proposal from Ida Chong, the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, to create a municipal auditor general (MAG) isn’t getting much support from the Union of BC Municipalities, or from local municipal politicians.
“The UBCM has many concerns,” mayor John Harwood told Clearwater council during its Aug. 16 meeting, “and the regional district supports the UBCM.”
Harwood said he has seen instances in education where the provincial government appeared to audit figures selectively to get a desired outcome.
He was also concerned because there seemed to be no guidelines on how the proposed auditor would report to the public.
“The last thing we need is another level of bureaucracy,” said the mayor.
Councilor Ken Kjenstad quoted the mayor of another municipality who felt the provincial government should take care of its own house first, before imposing an auditor on local governments.
Kjenstad was concerned about how much the new auditor’s office would cost the municipalities and regional districts.
He found reassurances that the costs would be “not very much” inadequate.
“It would be very difficult to see how all the communities are handling their money,” said the council member. “This is going to be really debated at UBCM,” referring to the Union of BC Municipalities convention, which will be held at the end of September.
Clearwater council was discussing an email from Chong asking for feedback on the MAG proposal.
“The primary benefit of the municipal auditor general is increased assurance that taxpayers are getting value-for-money from their local governments – just as they have that assurance through the Office of the Auditor General’s review of provincial finances,” the minister wrote.
According to UBCM, a process that began with a solution rather than the identification of a problem to be addressed and an analysis of the options to resolve it has challenged policy development regarding the MAG proposal.
Also according to UBCM, MAGs are only required within Canada for municipalities in Nova Scotia, municipalities over 100,000 in Quebec, and for the City of Toronto. Specific statutory provisions in Ontario and for Winnipeg, and generalized statutory powers in Alberta and B.C. allow local governments to establish a MAG and assign duties to the office.