Is municipal Auditor General on the horizon?

Post by Daniel Fontaine in

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auditor general
Auditor General Sheila Fraser has worked tirelessly to expose government waste

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the benefits of an external auditor coming to the City of Vancouver. Vision Councillor Raymond Louie has proposed this position be created to determine if unnecessary programs can be cut in future budgets. He is proposing to allocate about $300,000 to set up the new office.

It could be argued that it might be more cost-effective for Mr. Louie to simply give that $300K to the Province's auditor general, and contract him to undertake this function. As they say, why re-invent the wheel? However, it looks like Vancouver is going to go it a lone on this one.

In Alberta, they're going one big step further than Louie's proposal. Conservative MLA Art Johnston has introduced Bill 202: Municipal Government (Municipal Auditor General) Amendment Act, 2009. The following is an excerpt of his proposed legislation:

Office of the Municipal Auditor General

279.1(1) The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, on the
recommendation of the Minister, appoint a Municipal Auditor
General, who shall hold office for a term not exceeding 5 years.

(2) The Municipal Auditor General must be a chartered
accountant, certified management accountant or certified
general accountant.

(3) The Minister shall provide for the payment of the
remuneration and expenses of the Municipal Auditor General
and for the office and staff of the Municipal Auditor General in
the annual estimates for the Minister’s department.

(4) The powers, duties and functions of the Municipal Auditor
General are to

(a) conduct random audits of municipalities and make
recommendations respecting their financial statements

The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) states on their website:

"While the AAMDC understands the importance of accountability for public funds, the Board of Directors will not be putting forward an official position until more details are known regarding the structure and implementation of the office of the MAG."

 The Member for Calgary-Hays spoke in the Legislature to explain the rationale for his Bill:

"The municipal auditor general would work with Alberta municipalities and their external financial auditors to assist municipalities with making their operations both as effective and efficient as possible and to make sure that Albertans get value for their money. It would also create a mechanism for Albertans to determine whether they are receiving fair value for their business and property taxes. The municipal auditor general would conduct a performance audit of any municipal system or program that is deemed appropriate. It would subsequently provide the municipality with detailed recommendations for improvement and potential actions that may help achieve this. These measures would help to ensure that a municipality’s operations and services are executed in a way that makes the best possible use of public funds."

To date, Bill 202 has received very little media attention in Alberta. It is unknown whether it will end up getting the necessary government support to become law. In any event, given Vancouver is considering an external auditor, can the issue of a Municipal Auditor General in BC and other provinces be too far behind?

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