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City report card looking grim for Rossland

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The Auditor General for Local Government has published her findings, and there is certainly room for improvement for Rossland.

The document wasn’t intended for publication until reports of all five local municipalities were ready later in 2014, but it was rushed to release because of “serious, unresolved issues… that require urgent and prompt steps by the City of Rossland.”

During their investigation into the requested arena roof replacement project, enough concerns were raised that an additional six projects, all between 2010 and 2012, were audited.

The report concluded that, in addition to the conflict of interest and unauthorized cost overruns of the arena project, all of the audited undertakings suffered from:

 

•    Failure to follow City’s own procurement policies

 

•    Lack of documentation of key project information

 

•    Payments made without contracts in place

 

•    Insufficient oversight of council on expenditures and project amendments

 

While the AGLG claims to have been created “to strengthen British Columbians’ confidence in their local governments’ stewardship of public assets and the achievement of value for money in their operations,” Rossland Mayor Greg Granstrom feels they fell short of this goal.

Rossland invited the auditor to assist in identifying system improvements as a result of what occurred with its former building inspector.

In return, the city received a detailed audit that not only highlighted alleged missteps with the arena project but also criticized the implementation and performance of six additional projects.

“We all need help but we don’t need to get poked in the eye when we ask for it,” he said. “I think this information could have been presented in a more constructive manner.”

He’s referring to the scathing report that concludes city staff did not adequately protect the interests of its taxpayers, backing up this claim mostly by noting the city did not get value for its money on the Rossland Arena roof repairs.

This is not new information for Rossland, which is in the midst of suing its former building inspector in hopes of recovering unaccountable funds from that project.

The City did not expect a strain on resources to complete this audit, which Granstrom said equated to about two months of work for two staff members.

“The written response we received from council on April 22 was very positive,” Basia Ruta, chief auditor for the AGLG, retorted. “We were told they were thankful, and that it had been a positive learning experience that will lead to improvement and growth.” When asked about the use of local resources, Ruta responded, “A typical audit such as this takes over a year and we completed it in nine months. The seriousness of our findings, a dearth of documents and lack of access to decision makers naturally resulted in more time and effort on our parts.”

Finally, in response to the suggestion that the report could have been more constructive, Ruta stated, “We understand that audits are not easy things for people to deal with. We work with transparency and professional rigour, as is our mandate. We wanted the City to recognize fundamental gaps in their system, but we also want other municipalities to see what could happen when certain policies are not in place.”

Rossland has crafted an action plan which addresses many of the concerns outlined in the report. Council and city staff  have been implementing these changes for the past two years.

The office of the AGLG is pleased with the action plan that council presented in response to their findings, and recognizes that a serious effort is currently being made to address deficiencies.

- with files from the Trail Times

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