RFP, AGLG, our Pocketbooks and the Product
Ron Bolin: Nov. 14, 2012
A Letter to Two Local Editors:
The City recently issued an RFP for a consultant to perform a study of governance for the City of Nanaimo at a cost estimated to be up to around $50,000. At the same time, the Province announced its first Auditor General for Local Governments (AGLG). Should we pay municipal taxes for a service provided by the province?
My contact with Staff and Council has led me to believe that they are incorrect in their assertion of the task of the AGLG and they have described the service to be provided there as of dubious value regarding governance. My contact with the AGLG’s office has indicated that kind of examination to be provided is precisely what is needed in Nanaimo, i.e. a performance audit:
“Performance audit refers to an examination of a program, function, operation or the management systems and procedures of a governmental or non-profit entity to assess whether the entity is achieving economy, efficiency and effectiveness in the employment of available resources. The examination is objective and systematic, generally using structured and professionally adopted methodologies.” See: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/performance_audit
The legislation establishing the AGLG’s Office shows its purpose:
“The purpose of the auditor general is to conduct performance audits of the operations of local governments in order to provide local governments with objective information and relevant advice that will assist them in their accountability to their communities for the stewardship of public assets and the achievement of value for money in their operations.” See: http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/1st_read/gov20-1.htm
By using the resources available through the new AGLG we would get the equivalent of a Core Review. We need this service as we have hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending in our municipal plans. What is the rush to avoid these provincial services and spend City taxpayer money on an RFP? Ask your Councillors.
I would speculate that someone pitched a seminar on the topic of Governance to “we don’t know who”. It does seem odd that this requires an RFP as “we don’t know who” does indeed seem to know who will get this contract. Bottom line; It is not fair to request proposals that are not real opportunities.
Take a look at this story about the AGLG sent in by Frank Murphy
The auditors in a municipality should be the councillors. In a properly functioning democracy the councillors would have research personnel under their direct control – and not physically at City Hall where they would be under the thumb of administration. I will wait and see but I won’t be terribly surprised if the audit office is a very soft critic – and what the real effect will be is to further restrict the ability of councils to make tough decisions.
David: I agree with your premise. Now how do we get there? The only way that I can see to have research personnel under the direct control of Councillors is to go to ” open” political parties with the research personnel paid by the parties. I certainly don’t want to see Council’s researchers paid by Staff, nor would I propose to give enough money to each Councillor so that they could hire their own. How do we get there?
On your other observation, I also agree. I wouldn’t be too surprised if the AGLG is too soft. But then what will be the case of an evaluator of City Hall performance who is paid for and reports elementarily to Staff? I suspect you are aware of the problems of professional private consultants who bring news that isn’t wanted. Remember theconsultancy which recently completed a study of the use of inside and outside contractors. We got a parking recommendation which caused us to hire some five new Staff and, at least for my money, the real parking situation remains undiscovered territory. In the worst case, with the AGLG we at least save the cost of the consultant of up to or beyond $50,000.
If the auditors are to be the councilors then the advisers to the councilors should be an informed and engaged public.We don’t need another layer of hired guns we can abdicate our responsibilities to once again.
I would suggest the auditors need to be the public who should also be auditing the councilors who sometimes seem woefully incompetent for the task at hand. I am coming to the conclusion the reason you see little real debate or discussion at city council meetings is rooted in the opinion that it is better to be silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Another acceptable auditor would be a properly functioning fourth estate, but that ain’t going to happen in Nanaimo.