By Yolanda Ridge, Rossland News
“Mum’s the word” seems a strange motto for an office that lists transparency as one of their founding principles.
And yet, that’s exactly how the new Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) has chosen to conduct performance audits—with no information going out to the public until all phases of the process are complete.
“The AG process is very much in-camera,” explained Mayor Greg Granstrom when asked for an update. “We are very limited to what we can report. This is due entirely to provincial legislation and is outside the control of the City of Rossland.”
As outlined by the AGLG website, there are four phases to the process with action required by the local government at every stage. The initiation stage, whose title speaks for itself, started in June after Rossland was chosen for audit as follow up to an incident involving the city’s former building inspector.
But the mayor could not comment on whether the audit had entered stage two (survey and planning) or stage three (examination), stating only that it had been a huge amount of work for city staff to provide the AGLG with data to-date.
“It’s interesting because (the auditor general staff) walk into a small municipality like this and they want to see the engineering department and the finance department,” said Granstrom.
Needless to say, the auditors were surprised to find all areas covered by a small, limited staff, he added.
On the AGLG website there is nothing specific to the City of Rossland other than an inclusion in a list of six municipalities which have individual audit reports scheduled for web release in the last quarter of 2013/14. The final report is expected at the end of March, said Granstrom.
As for making the report public, that will happen when all stages are complete and the audit report appears on the AGLG website.
Prior to that, stage four (reporting) gives local government the opportunity to review the draft audit, provide comment and read the consolidated document prior to publication.
The entire process currently involves a lot of back and forth between the AGLG and the municipality, but people don’t get to hear anything until all sides have agreed on exactly what it is they have to say.
Until then, everything remains confidential. And the AGLG is not even subject to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The audit comes after the City of Rossland’s tendering, contracting and project reporting practices were brought to light earlier this year.
The AGLG will wade into the tangle created when the city’s former building inspector Jason Ward’s own company was able to bill the city $185,000 for arena renovations, unbeknownst to council.
In the coming audit the provincial office is expected to make recommendations to council on the best means to provide adequate oversight of contract services and project management and to reduce the possibility of fraud in the future.
The province has contracted with KPMG and Grant Thornton to assist in the conduct of the performance audits.
By requesting the inquiry and sharing the results, council will be providing full disclosure to the citizens of Rossland and will be able adopt recommendations and best practices to improve governance in the future, said the AGLG’s office in a letter to council.
Individual audit reports for the City of Rossland can now be found on the city’s website at http://www.rossland.ca/auditor-general-local-governments-aglg-audit-information.