It seemed like a good idea at the time. The provincial government, specifically Premier Christy Clark, set up the Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) to help local governments improve their internal operations and hopefully, in the process, save taxpayers money.
The District of Sechelt (DOS) was one of 18 communities selected for review. Several audit reports were expected to be made public prior to the November municipal election, but those were delayed until after the election with the AGLG saying it was not appropriate, as the findings could have been used as a tool to influence the election outcomes. It seemed like a reasonable explanation at the time, but a leaked report to the provincial New Democrats this week set off a firestorm of debate in the legislature and calls into question the effectiveness of the AGLG.
Two years in and more than $5.2 million later, only one part of an audit for the City of Rossland has been released. According to the AGLG’s website, they expect to publish a report for the Corporation of Delta and the DOS in April, and part two of the Rossland report is expected sometime later this month. As for the rest of the 15 communities that were selected, your guess is as good as ours.
But the lack of apparent work and timeliness of the reports is just the tip of the iceberg.
The leaked document to the NDP shows a lack of clear direction on objectives and priorities, which, according to the eight-page report and 50-plus interviews with staff, should have been addressed at the outset of the AGLG’s mandate. There is also lots of frustration among staff with 78 per cent saying they were dissatisfied with the organization and 78 per cent saying they had a negative view of executive management.
The NDP went on the offensive in Victoria with the Liberals, specifically Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes, to whom the AGLG reports, taking the brunt of the opposition. Oakes stressed that the AGLG is independent of government and that the Liberals too were “disappointed” with the number of audits being performed. No kidding, you are disappointed. So are the residents of the 18 communities still looking for answers after two years.
None of this adds up, and it looks really bad. For an agency that was set up specifically to help municipal government and save money to be in such disarray and chaos itself speaks volumes of a flawed and wasted process.