By Greg Heil
(WINDSOR, ON) – Dear Councillors. No doubt you are under pressure now to grasp Administration’s thinly veiled opposition to reinstating an internal Auditor General (AG) roll, as per their recent report. I’d wager that the delayed Council meeting this week was a ploy for more time to win you over.
But, I implore you to consider the following.
A comparison of the relatively modest cost differences, or measure of professionalism, between an internal AG model and external PwC consultant model and the focus on the infrequency of the AG application across Ontario are secondary issues. The most important statement within the entire report is to be found on the very first page:
Sections 223.20 lo 223.23 [of the Municipal Act, 2001] govern the responsibilities, powers and duties of the Auditor General. Among these are the legislated guarantee of independence, free access to all financial and other records of the municipality, and the power to examine individuals under oath.
This is the profound difference.
Whereas the hired auditor’s work scope is always tightly controlled by Administration, an independent internal AG’s office answers only to Council and has the authority to directly challenge the mayor and CAO, scrutinizing financial and other data at its discretion.
This is not about a false accusation of graft or fraud; none is expected. It’s merely about establishing trust, transparency, and verification of vital data which becomes the basis of public policy.
It delivers a long absent balance of power to our city government, a countervailing force tempering the unfettered ability of the mayor, CAO, and other administrators to present information before Council which is untested or untrue.
A well functioning AG would seek to verify Administration formulated financial projections for major capital and other projects, providing a sober second look at the cost basis predicting success or failure, and have ability to recommend improvements.
Other AG offices in Ontario municipalities have demonstrated that the value of savings garnered through the process outweigh the cost of their operations.
Think of the impact on past events if the previous AG had the opportunity to carry through with his intended program to analyze some of the previous mayor’s pet projects and agencies.
Of course, the then mayor recognized the implications and committed perhaps the most reckless act of his term by summarily firing him. A great injustice.
This speaks to the betterment of City Council’s oversight of municipal affairs, this speaks to the betterment of our local democracy, and this speaks to the betterment of Windsor.
We encourage you to bring back our Auditor General. There is no justification to do otherwise.