Correspondence on the matter of the Auditor General for Local Governments
Correspondence is in order of communication. These items were preceded by a phone to Mr. Tatchell’s office. Items of correspondence are separated thus:
From Mark Tatchell:
From: Tatchell, Mark CSCD:EX
Sent: Friday, November 09, 2012 4:41 PM
Thank you for your call earlier today. Look forward to receiving your
material in reference to the City of Nanaimo.
To Mark Tatchell:
—– Original Message —–
From: Ron Bolin [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 02:57 PM
To: Tatchell, Mark CSCD:EX
Subject: Re: AGLG
Thanks for the email Mark. The mystery of the failure of my email to you is
solved. This is what I got from my MLA’s office:
Dear Mr. Bolin,
The New Auditor General for Local Government is Basia Ruta but the office
will not open until mid January. In the meantime the person to call is Mark
Patchel (sic)l, Project Director for Implementation,
To: Mark Tatchell:
The RFP which was recently let by the City of Nanaimo in this regard can be
found at: http://www.nanaimo.ca/bid_opportunities/bid_details.aspx?id=719
My correspondence with our Mayor and Council on this matter was:
Mayor Ruttan and Councillors:
Nanaimo City Staff, with your sanction, recently released a Request for
Proposals (RFP) for what is in effect an audit of our City’s Governance with
a closing date later this month and a project start date of January 1, 2013.
It is striking that Jan. 1, 2013, is also the date on which our recently
appointed provincial auditor for municipalities is to start her work. It
would seem to this taxpayer to be prudent to attempt to acquire these new
services for our municipality rather than paying twice for the same type of
advice. Is there some reason that we are in such a hurry to send this
contract to a “private” consultant?
From the new municipal auditor’s point of view Nanaimo would make an
excellent choice as it presents the opportunity to examine a middle size
city facing hundreds of millions of dollars in upcoming infrastructure costs
and which has already for some years raised costs to its taxpayers at rates
well above the cost of living index. At the same time, it is not the worst
actor in either situation. Nanaimo also has a capable and well paid
management staff to provide the necessary materials for the audit, to assist
the auditor and to see that our interests are promoted.
Rather than paying twice for this service, once for our audit, as well as
over and over for the audits of others, why do we not avail ourselves of
this unique opportunity to utilize available municipal audit services and at
the same time set an example to the province for their use? Please advise of
your reasoning in this matter.
Thanking you for your prompt consideration, I remain,
The response from our Mayor was:
In my opinion, these are two separate issues. The Province of BC has engaged
an individual to ensure that municipalities are in total compliance with all
policies and requirements provincially mandated. We expect that they may
well arrive unannounced and ask to see our records. Essentially they are
primarily interested in possible non-compliance on our part of provincial
The RFP that we recently released seeks to find an individual or company who
will facilitate a series of meetings with Council to update us on current
governance issues and to also provide us with new knowledge to ensure that
the City of Nanaimo is compliant on all matters related to governance.
The Provincial Auditor will be paid by and accountable only to Victoria, and
while we assume that they may assist us to some extent, their primary
responsibility is to uncover non-compliance, and clearly not to provide
Mayor John Ruttan
To: Mark Tatchell
Please advise whether the assertion by the Mayor of the manner in which the
AGLG’s office will operate is correct.
From Mark Tatchell:
Thank you for your email Ron and I am glad we were able to make contact.
The AGLG is empowered to conduct performance audits of local governments. The performance audits will assess whether a local government is economically, efficiently and effectively delivering services and conducting its operations. And the AGLG will look for best practices among local governments and publicize those best practice.
Performance audits are not financial audits (which local governments undergo annually) and nor are they compliance audits. Compliance audits typically examine whether an agency (or government) has adhered to required policies and procedures. If Mayor Ruttan believes that the AGLG will be conducting compliance audits, I would be pleased to clarify the AGLG’s role and mandate for His Worship. Moreover, once Ms. Ruta begins her tenure, it might be useful for her to meet with His Worship and members of Nanaimo council to explain her mandate, priorities and approach.
I hope this response helps to shed a bit of light on the AGLG. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance. Moreover, please feel free to share this response.
Canadians love auditors. I have often said that for Canadians the ideal form of government would be a benevolent dictatorship headed by the auditor general a la Sheila Fraser. We could quite easily set up a dictatorship of the auditors (an enhancement of Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat) from top to bottom as more and more of these people (invariably accountants) are added to the governance process, federally, provincially and now municipally. In fact, at last count there were 1341 auditor type offices in existence at various government levels (up, down and sideways) in Canada.
David: You may be correct, but we also love consultants whose primary working relation is with Staff before they inconveniently provide their reports to those politically responsible. In this case there may be an opportunity to have this study done externally by professionals with a need to demonstrate their utility at start-up as well as to avoid costs to Nanaimo taxpayers.
And what, in the end, is the difference between a consultant and an auditor?
Auditors count the acorns; consultants examine the acorns for their aesthetic qualities.
The RVP for a consultant to study governance in the City of Nanaimo is mighty curious. I take it that this was initiated by staff (not Diane Brennan)??? What is the purpose? On the surface it is patently of little benefit so there must be some subterranean reason for doing it. A power struggle in Administration? Perhaps Administration want to keep councillors in a well defined space? Does it have something to do with new PR job? To date the new hiree seems invisible. Perhaps Administration was not taken with the notion that he would be a conduit from the public to councillors (a backwards order in a democracy in any event).
This will be just another step in removing those pesky Councillors from having any real input when it comes to how the city is run. I strongly suspect one of the reasons for keeping the ‘information’ sessions in-camera is so that the public can not really see the interaction between council and staff.
Councillor Sherry used to refer to those in-camera meetings as the rehearsals, which explains why there is virtually no real debate of deliberation on city matters during council meetings.
If anyone thinks anyone other than senior city staff actually creates policy you just haven’t been paying attention.
Jim, I agree generally with your comment. Councillors versus administrators is a very unequal situation. On the one hand you have nine well meaning people who are part-timers and have no collective ideas or strategies while on the other side is a group of well paid sophisticated, fulltimers organized in a structured, hierarchial manner which means that no matter what internal disputes they might have had along the way they present in a coherent, consistent manner. Still it is a stretch perhaps to label any of Nanaimo’s councillors as “pesky”. Nothing administrators hate more than an elected representative wandering the back halls asking questions directly to staff members but there is no outward indication that any one other than the mayor is likely to be doing that (and the mayor would be so clueless as to be harmless). So I still find the RVP mighty curious.