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.
“Ted Swabey has missed an opportunity to undertake a credible reorganization of the City – with its budget a $1M in savings is inconsequential. ” Wow thems is fighting words from Ms Tracy Samra, an insider, who is supposed to tow the party line.
On the other hand I have been professionally and remotely associated with Nanaimo City Hall since 1958, and as resident and practicing architect/planner in the city since 1998 so I can see where she is coming from.
A wise practitioner should always keep his mouth shut and his hand out. In my dotage for that I have no need anymore.
Once-upon-a-time I approached city hall as a supplicant. Now I look somewhat askance at how the Ruttan Council is conducting city business.
In contrast to, “Oct. 2, 1988 The Nanaimo Harbour Commission opened the Harbourside Walkway Oct. 30, 1993 Pioneer Waterfront Plaza officially opened July 23, 1994. “, not much of a positive nature has happened since!
The PIBC awarded Commercial Street, last year, but we can hardly take credit for that: Commercial Street was conceived one hundred years ago and, frankly, the city has been doing its damnedest to screw up since.
Ex-mayor Korpan probably chalks VICC up as one of his achievements but when ever I attend a function the place feels empty.
So far I look to the record of the Ruttan council: folding of Sandstone and Cable Bay, abandonment of the Annex, back track on the Colliery dams, clandestine appearance of the SARC building, side stepping the core revue, approval of the Linley Valley sub-division (that surely in a non-existent real estate market could have awaited a second thought?), the super complicated SDWI that appears, at first glance to be in conflict with the just announced IFSL with the proviso the latter will be moved when other more valuable land use is prescribed for that land. Having said that where will that acreage of parking be accommodated anywhere close to downtown?
The general dilapidation of the downtown crescent and the incessant northern sprawl will not be ameliorated by another bus. For all its good intention . . .
. . . RDN’s Transit Future Plan, 2013, is meaningless without a recalibration of the urban village.
I cannot speak to the city’s financial shemozzle. Ron speaks to that more authoritatively. Needless to say we are over taxed to the hilt and over governed with minimum beneficial results.
Professionally and personally I deplore the lack of urbane aesthetic considerations especially since that is a very poignant component of our tourism delusions.
As it stands eager tourists having spent an arm and a leg, disembarking from those luxurious cruse ships, to visit beautiful downtown Nanaimo will be confronted by an endless landscape of parked cars if IFSL gets its way.
Another bureaucrat, a cultural manager, isn’t going to help that! Cultural manager? More stifling bureaucracy! Is there a warm, comfy SARC office waiting for her? What nonsense: still, a peek into Nanaimo ingrained civic thinquing!
Did I hear one of our august councilors of the distaff persuasion praises Diana Krall Plaza? Oh dear God help us!
The City Manager has eliminated seven management positions including the post he previously held, which makes one ponder what he was doing in his old position……….
Ms. Samra has hit upon a central weakness of City’s budgeting process. Nanaimo will need performance monitoring more than ever with the rise in the costs of unanticipated expenses for things like the tax increases on our new water facilities, costly repair of our sewer outfall, collapsing mines, dramatic increases in Hydro costs, etc. Certainly it looks like our new City Manager will need to tighten his grip on the administration in many areas and that senior Staff downsizing will not be nearly enough. We can try to dig deeper haphazardly as in the past or we can turn to monitoring our output per unit of input.
While I originally had some hope for the new budget preparation process, my hopes, while still alive, are fading fast. Without a clear performance monitoring system we are still left without a sufficiently robust mechanism for budgetary decisions.