Opposition leader John Horgan speaks to local government convention in 2015, promising to get rid of Canada’s only auditor general for local government. (Black Press files)

Keep local government auditor, B.C. small business group says

John Horgan promised to scrap it, ministry now reviewing it

The B.C. NDP government has embarked on a review of one of former premier Christy Clark’s more controversial ideas, an auditor general to examine the performance of municipal governments.

Unpopular with municipalities since Clark promised it during her 2012 bid for the leadership of the B.C. Liberal Party, the Auditor General for Local Government has carried on with “performance audits” of municipal projects and financial management since the original auditor was fired in 2015 over internal conflicts with staff.

Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson confirmed that a review is underway, as required by the legislation that set up the office.

“I’m not going to pre-determine the outcome of the review at this time,” Robinson said Monday. “I’ll be looking to determine whether the office is offering value to local governments and whether changes made prior to my time in government have been effective.”

Clark and former communities minister Peter Fassbender argued that performance auditing isn’t a duplication of standard annual audits local governments are required to do, but rather a way to find and share best practices for managing construction, running utilities and other local government functions.

Premier John Horgan promised to scrap the office in his 2015 speech to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where Fassbender announced the current auditor, former Metro Vancouver chief financial officer Gordon Ruth. The announcement came before an audience of hostile mayors and councillors who were in some cases refusing to spend staff time cooperating with a project that was in disarray.

Ruth was appointed to replace Basia Ruta, a former federal auditor who was fired after she refused to participate in an internal review of her performance, amid reports that work had stalled with more than $5 million spent on municipal audit efforts.

RELATED: Municipal auditor fired, no severance

The most recent audit on the municipal auditor’s website, released in April, looked at the City of Kelowna’s management of drinking water. It was a follow-up to a similar look at drinking water management in the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business continues to support having a separate auditor for local government, arguing that small businesses paying a large share of local property taxes. Richard Truscott, CFIB vice president for B.C. and Alberta, says some of the audits were requested by the municipal governments themselves.

“The audits done on how to improve municipal procurement processes, or those on human resources, or those on human resources practices, are excellent examples of the valuable work the AGLG has been doing,” Truscott told Black Press.

“I know some municipal governments get their backs up, and don’t always appreciate being held accountable for the money they spend,” Truscott said. “But it’s exactly what local businesses and other taxpayers rightfully expect and demand.

“Rather than constantly raising taxes, there definitely should be a focus on looking at how wisely municipalities are spending the billions of dollars already handed over each year by taxpayers.”

Just Posted

Rockets lose double header to Winterhawks

Rockets fell 4-2 Sunday night

Kelowna’s definitive Christmas market list

We’ve prepared a list of every market in the Central Okanagan

People’s Party of Canada builds self in Kelowna-Lake Country federal riding

Over 30,000 members have joined in the riding so far

Comedy show to help Kelowna man paralyzed in crash

Warden is an incomplete C-5 quadriplegic, who was injured in a near fatal motor vehicle accident.

Central Okanagan Crime Stoppers search for two men

Two men allegedly were attempting to break into community mailboxes in Lake Country

Find me my furever home

Noodle is available for adoption from the Kelowna BC SPCA

Lack of public response threatens B.C. referendum credibility

Of the few who have voted, poll finds most rejected proportional representation

Grim search for more fire victims; 31 dead across California

More than 8,000 firefighters battled wildfires that scorched at least 1,040 square kilometres

Politicians need to do better on social media, Trudeau says

Prime minister suggests at conference in Paris some are trying to use technology to polarize voters

Wally Buono exits CFL, stinging from painful playoff loss

B.C. Lions lost the Eastern semifinal to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Sunday, 48-8

Pot company hopes to replace jobs lost in mill closure in B.C. town

About 200 workers lost their jobs when the Tolko sawmill in Merritt shuttered in 2016

Funding announcement promises to drive business innovation in B.C.

Minister is scheduled to make the announcement at the Penticton campus of Okanagan College

Two seasons of Stranger Things, in an hour

Charlie Ross brings his One-Man Stranger Things and One-Man Lord of the Rings to Penticton

Auntie Says: A time to remember the freedoms we have today

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer for the Penticton Western News

Most Read