July 20, 2024
Press Coverage

Civic leaders oppose idea of auditor

I  smell  fear  at  City  Hall!!!!!!! -Street  Church  comment

Civic  leaders  oppose  idea  of  auditor

Independent post would scrutinize local spending


C ivic leaders across the province are gathering steam against a Calgary MLA’s private member’s bill calling for a municipal auditor to keep watch over local spending.

Along with a terse letter to Premier Ed Stelmach, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association has made a written submission opposing the bill, arguing it would load yet another wasteful level of bureaucracy onto municipalities that already have their own external auditors keeping an eye on spending.

The group’s website states the bill "must not be enacted" and that it takes a very "patronizing approach to municipal accountability."

"This is ridiculous, and absolutely unnecessary," said Lloyd Bertschi, president of the AUMA and Mayor of Morinville just north of Edmonton. "All municipalities already have their own independent external auditors, and they send their reports into municipal affairs every year."

Bertschi added the idea suggests an offensive level of mistrust, with no evidence that cities are spending unwisely. And it would put additional financial burdens on cities.

Art Johnston, Tory MLA for Calgary Hays, has introduced a private members bill calling for a municipal auditor to ensure that each municipality across Alberta is getting value for taxpayers dollars, and grant money received from the province.

The bill received first reading earlier this year in the legislature and was then referred to the Standing Committee on Community Services to accept submissions from the public until July 31.

Calgary aldermen say they’ve been aware of the proposal for months, and many are against the idea.

"The province should worry about their own house before they worry about ours," said Ald. Ray Jones.

"I’m not opposed to someone finding better efficiencies. But I think it should be up to the city, not the province to do that," said Jones.

Ald. Jim Stevenson, city council’s representative on the AUMA, said the city could use more value-for-money audits within its corporation, "but I don’t think it’s necessary to do this provincially. Why would we enter into another level of bureaucracy at the provincial level?"

Ald. Dale Hodges added: "We see the idea of the province employing a provincial auditor somewhat redundant. It’s not anything we’ve been promoting."

But Janine Halbesma, acting Alberta director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, argues that municipal spending needs to be better scrutinized, particularly on a broader level with a provincial auditor comparing different cities.

"We’ve encouraged all MLAs to vote in favour of this bill," she said. "We need to look at why so many municipalities, which are about the same size, are spending so differently on things like fire, or other services."

Johnston agreed, saying a provincially appointed auditor would allow municipalities to share best practices, and ensure money is being spent wisely among the province’s nearly 360 municipalities.

Johnston estimated the cost of the auditor would be about $500,000 to $750,000 annually.

"But at the same time, it could end up saving millions," he said.

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