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

Sock Hop aims to send dancers back to another time

Writers’ Festival fundraiser springs into step for another year

Snapshot: Shuswap musicians pay tribute to Pete Seeger

Wildwood Productions Group concert shows many sides of singer’s work

Rain on the way for the Okanagan-Shuswap

Vernon’s dust warning is ongoing

Kangaroo Creek Farm hops into season

Lake Country’s popular tourist site has opened its doors for the season

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Kelowna artist featured on furniture

Shandra Smith’s work is now available on credenzas

Destructive blaze in West Kelowna fatal for cat

The fire at a West Kelowna condo claimed the life of one tenant’s cat

Man pinned under metal tank in West Kelowna

Emergency personnel are on the scene

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Mudslide sends debris into Highway

Highway 33 near Joe Rich had mud spilled on the highway from the slide

Most Read