Nanaimo Needs Performance Auditing

Tracy Samra:  Nov. 27, 2013

Having personally lead two government reorganizations, one for a relatively small branch and the other of federal regional office with 250+ staff, a $25M operating budget, multiple unions and whose actions were closely scrutinized by the public, I can speak with some authority on this issue.  Ted Swabey has missed an opportunity to undertake a credible reorganization of the City – with its budget a $1M in savings is inconsequential.

In order to make informed decisions about how to structure your organization, including the required resources and staff, you need information about your operations.  You get this by conducting performance audits to evaluate your operations, as well as by consulting with all levels of staff, the unions and your stakeholders.  Without this information how do you know the changes make sense and deliver the intended outputs?  How do you verify? Validate?  Antidotal information and simple logic isn’t enough to meet your obligations to be transparent, accountable and responsible.

If you really want to make long term change and support your strategic objectives more needs to be done up front.

Instead of ridiculing Councillor Kipp when he asks for the City to conduct a core review Nanaimo citizens would be well served if Mayor and Council gave the idea some actual consideration before outright rejecting it.  His idea isn’t crazy and I am not alone in this opinion.  While I do not agree with the federal Conservative’s priorities and massive departmental cuts their process to support their decision-making is based on sound principles – namely a rigorous internal audit and evaluation system similar to a core review.  In fact, the newly created Auditor General for Local Governments was created to lead a province-wide performance auditing of our 190 local governments, again similar to core reviews.   Performance auditing evaluates the extent to which local government operations are undertaken and looks at financial, human and other resources with attention to economy and efficiency, and asks if operations are achieving their results and if procedures are being followed consistently.

At council meetings the majority of Councillors argue that we don’t need a core review because the City just did a strategic planning exercise and a governance review.  I disagree.  Strategic plans outline a vision and sets priorities, with some measures to see if we are getting from point A to point B.  A governance review is simply a check-in on roles and responsibilities between Council and Staff.  Neither have anything to do with determining if tax payer’s monies are being used effectively, efficiently or economically.

To support the next budgetary cycle and to make organizational changes that yield costs savings without jeopardizing the delivery of programs and services Nanaimo citizens want and deserve, Council should give some serious thought to adopting their own performance audit process.  They don’t need to do it all at once, create a 3-5 year plan and start the hard work of self-reflection before the Auditor General for Local Governments does it for us and then tells us what to do.