The long-awaited and much anticipated audit report of the District of Sechelt by the Auditor General for Local Government was released Wednesday, and it paints an ugly picture of mismanagement by the previous mayor and council.
Among the concerns were how decisions were made around the District’s new crowning jewel — its wastewater recovery centre. Many residents expressed concern over decision-making, closed door meetings and transparency in the year leading up to its construction — concerns that were hotly debated during last November’s municipal election.
The AGLG has confirmed those concerns and more in a damning report that shows the previous council had an “ask questions later” mentality.
Among the AGLG’s findings were closed meetings with potential bidders prior to issuing a request for proposals, meaning that the process was far from transparent and the District can’t demonstrate that all companies were on the same, even playing field.
The District had no business case at the time council decided to broaden the project’s scope. Again, ask questions later and hope that everything works itself out.
During the last council’s term in office, staff turnover was alarmingly high, and that is also cited as a major issue by the AGLG as a fault with this project — not enough senior, qualified staff in place to ensure all the checks and balances were done properly.
Due to all of these issues, the AGLG has recommended that the District conduct a full post-completion review of the project — and ensure that report is made public.
The current council and staff say they are committed to following all of the AGLG’s recommendations and ensure that the District is more open and transparent with the public, but it also raises serious questions about the previous administration.
That group said they were committed to business and business practices. Some members of that council said they were well versed in best practices and financial issues. Clearly they did not appear to know what they were doing in many respects. That is very troubling. And now the current council, and quite possibly other future councils, will be left dealing with the aftermath of the mess.
The electorate was very clear when they went to the polls last November about whom they wanted to lead the community of Sechelt. This report confirms that the electorate made the right choice.