Auditor General proposed for City of Vancouver to oversee priorities and spending

Sep 30 2019, 3:43 pm

There needs to be greater oversight over the City of Vancouver’s management and finances to the extent that one city councillor believes it is high time for the municipal government to start its own Auditor General’s office.

Councillor Colleen Hardwick says such offices that independently oversee the management and finances of a municipal government already exist in other Canadian counterpart jurisdictions, and would be useful for Vancouver’s growing municipal government.

In fact, according to Hardwick’s motion, Vancouver is the only major Canadian city that does not have an Auditor General’s office to provide “an essential layer of independent financial and performance oversight of the city’s financial and operational affairs.”

She cites examples of similar independent auditing offices and structures in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Edmonton.

“The establishment of an Auditor General Office in the City of Vancouver, consistent with Auditor General offices in other major Canadian cities, and operating independent of the city’s internal audit processes, would offer an enhanced standard of audit independence and objectivity and help to ensure that the city is providing effective stewardship over public assets, value-for-money in operations, transparent administration, and accountability for results, consistent with the public’s reasonable expectations,” she wrote.

Vancouver’s annual combined operating and capital budget is hovering at $2 billion in 2019 — up from about $1.5 billion in 2015; Hardwick suggests that the city’s mandate has become too stretched and requires a new level of oversight that goes beyond the existing system of internal oversight by the leadership of city staff.

“Growth in the size, scope, and nature of the City of Vancouver’s operating and capital budgets… along with many competing budget priorities” demands an independent Auditor General to “inspire public confidence” and provide the “best possible stewardship over public funds while actively and continuously seeking to better identify and mitigate risks the city faces, improve accountability, strengthen management controls, and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of city operations.”

To this end, Hardwick wants an Auditor General established for the city by March 1, 2020, with an initial annual office budget of $1 million, with the funding for this new oversight recouped from city budget savings and efficiencies identified by the office.

She wants city council to lead the process of forming the new office, in consultation with legal opinions, other municipal advisory bodies such as the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, other Auditor General offices in the country, and the provincial government on matters relating to the Vancouver Charter.

Council will debate on Hardwick’s motion this week.

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