A Promise Made Is A Debt Unpaid

schnurr-headerBy Chris Schnurr

(WINDSOR, ON) – During the last municipal election, many candidates were in favour of reinstating the Office of the Auditor General. Many of those same candidates were also elected by a wide margin.

But it seems, for some councilors, campaigns are campaigns and exist only to say what is needed in order to get elected.

Several arguments are made in Administration’s report advising against an auditor general, but what does not appear is probably the most important argument in favour of reinstating the office: trust and independence.

Those two words may offend the sensibilities of some, but they’re not meant to.

An auditor general’s specific purpose is not only to look at the books after the fact, although they do that very well. The most important role of the Auditor General  is to use his/her skills to guide and assist council with their financial decision making; assisting them to be the best stewards of taxpayer dollars before they spend our money.  It builds trust.

Imagine if the downtown aquatic complex had the additional oversight of an Auditor General.

The operating losses it’s now having may have been identified earlier, saving taxpayer dollars that could be spent on improving our neighbourhoods, or advertising all the great things Windsor and Essex have to offer.

Neither councilor nor administrator are perfect. That’s not a criticism, it’s reality.

There are always more efficient ways of doing something, so why some councilors are opposed to that or opposed to saving money before it is spent confounds me. It’s like fixing the brakes on your car after they failed.  It makes no sense.

The second most important reason for having an Auditor General is that of independence.

While it is true an Auditor General simply cannot audit anything he/she wants to, they are certainly not “prohibited” from doing so as the report claims. Councilors who serve as members on various boards can ask for the Auditor General’s assistance as has been done in other cities.

Toronto’s Auditor General conducted an audit of Toronto Polices Services.   Ottawa’s auditor general conducted an audit of Ottawa’s Police Services Fleet and a governance audit of the Ottawa Public Library.

Council can also determine how much freedom an Auditor General can have.

Sudbury council decided to give their Auditor General as much latitude as possible; basically submitting an audit plan, that council could not amend, only add to, and submit audit reports for public presentation.

While PwC is a respected accounting firm, their authority is limited to what council instructs as demonstrated with their EnWin review comments.

“We will not audit or otherwise verify the information supplied to us in connection with any engagement under this Agreement, from whatever source, except as specified in this Agreement.”

But above all else, the majority of the current councilors promised us they would reinstate the Auditor General.

It’s part of the reason we elected them.

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