Creating an overseer to ensure that municipal governments were fiscally prudent in spending taxpayers’ money was not a bad thing, but managing an office so poorly that the auditor itself needs to be audited is.
This week the provincial government fired its first-ever Auditor General for Local Government after Basia Ruta’s office filed less than a handful of audits in two years. Reports of poor leadership resulting in low morale and lack of direction led to the Auditor General’s firing with cause. Ruta says she will fight that decision.
Premier Christy Clark promised the creation of the auditor’s office during her election campaign to head the B.C. Liberal Party in 2011, saying the office would identify areas of waste and mismanagement, thereby saving taxpayers money.
But the situation is increasingly less about saving taxpayers’ dollars and more about saving political face.
The NDP suggest rolling the local government office into the provincial Auditor General. But that makes too much sense for a government, especially when the idea is coming from its political opposition.
The plan is to find another Auditor General for Local Government and hope that person can sort out the office’s problems.
Oversight of any government spending is a positive move but the province risks duplicating that service, especially in larger urban centres like Nanaimo, which has initiated a core-review process. Terms have yet to be defined but essentially a third party will go through the city’s budget with a fine-tooth comb to look for efficiencies and redundancies.
Perhaps once they’re finished, these third-party core review folks might consider applying their skills in a capacity for the provincial government. We hear it’s hiring.