City responds to local government audit

The city is taking steps to address weaknesses identified in an audit by B.C.’s local government auditor.

Campbell River was one of the first targets for B.C.’s local government auditor in an audit conducted through 2013 and 2014. The audit focused on management of the city’s capital assets and the city’s process for awarding contracts for capital projects.

Audit findings were released by the province in March.

While the audit, overseen by Local Government Auditor Gordon Ruth, found the city to be “relatively strong” in managing its assets, auditors determined the city needed a policy for managing its critical sewer, water and storm infrastructure and a more consistent approach to its asset management practices.

In response, city staff have recently formed a five-member Asset Infrastructure Management Committee, with a goal to establish an active and functional program for dealing with city infrastructure.

Ron Bowles, the city’s general manager of corporate services, said the strategy is to achieve a fully integrated asset management plan by 2021.

“Realizing this is a large initiative and many years out, the initial task is to deliver to council a strategy on how to get there,” Bowles said.

At last week’s council meeting, council approved the business principle of the plan which will come back to council during 2017 budget deliberations.

“Developing and implementing an AM (asset management) program will not only change the way the city makes capital asset decisions, it will also challenge the traditional departmental management structure and the resources directed towards managing assets,” Bowles said. “Although the AM program will save money in the long run, dedicated resources will be required for this function.”

But Coun. Charlie Cornfield said it’s a worthwhile initiative.

“This comes on the heels of the auditor general for local government and the staff that worked with us on asset management and I think this is in keeping with long-term proper management of people’s resources that we are stewards of,” Cornfield said.

City staff said asset management is an opportunity to tackle the looming crumbling infrastructure problem that local governments across Canada are facing.

Bowles said having the best data and analysis available when deciding on capital asset maintenance, renewal and replacement will help the city manage its dollars more efficiently.

“This will save costs due to preventative maintenance, just-in-time replacement and strategic investment into new infrastructure,” Bowles said. “It will also manage risk associated with critical infrastructure failure and service disruption.”

Council has made it a strategic priority to maintain critical infrastructure over the long-term and Bowles said an asset management program supports that priority.

The policy will help the city prioritize its infrastructure and assets, and identify depreciating assets and the costs to replace and upgrade those assets.

A comparison between the city and a roadmap produced by Asset Management BC found several gaps in the city’s asset management practices.

For example, the city has almost no current condition information or rating for its asset classes and there is minimal formal renewal or replacement decision processes in place, particularly regarding maintenance practices. There is also a lack of accurate and complete asset lists.

Although the asset management committee is in its infancy, it has identified critical gaps in asset management, identified tasks required to improve asset management practices, prioritized asset management improvement tasks, and wrote a strategy for completing asset management.