SRD slams local government auditor

Board of directors calls auditor general for local government program a complete failure

The Strathcona Regional District board is writing a letter to the province, urging it to scrap the auditor general for local government, a position that directors called a “complete failure.”

The board’s comments come on the heels of the firing of Basia Ruta, B.C.’s local government auditor, who was accused of “obstruction” by the minister responsible for the department.

Campbell River Director Larry Samson said the City of Campbell River witnessed first-hand the ineptitude of the auditor general.

“This to me has been a complete failure by the provincial government,” Samson said. “Campbell River has gone through two audits by this department and both have been a failure. The first audit they went through, we spent countless staff time with the auditors going over our procurement and then there was a staff change, they came back a year or two later and did it all over again – again, more staff time and more cost to the city.

“And now they’ve fired the auditor general for local government all of a sudden.”

Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes said Ruta was removed from her post because her “obstruction of an intended review of her office has created an intolerable situation that compounds the unstable work environment and lack of performance from that office.”

Ruta’s work had been called into question after a review found she had only completed two audits of local governments in the three years since her position was established by the premier.

Area D Director Brenda Leigh said she couldn’t understand why the position was created in the first place.

“I always thought that of all levels of government most responsible with public funds it is the local government,” Leigh said. “I was really surprised when they set up this special auditor for local government because they should be looking at themselves. They just wasted $5 million on this failed attempt at an auditor for local government and they should look in the mirror.

“I’m not saying leave local government alone, maybe there is a reason to go in and audit some local governments but they’re just not being responsible with public money when they’re going after local governments,” Leigh added. “We all have our own audits. The SRD has had a clean audit every year from our own auditors which we pay for, so why do we need another one?”

Area C Director Jim Abram said the implementation of the auditor general seemed like another attack on local government.

“It seems we have had an incredible amount of attention paid to local government over the last number of years with election legislation, election disclosure legislation, auditor generals, building codes, etc.,” Abram said. “Why are local governments being targeted for things that really nobody has complained about? I don’t get it. There’s a lot of things that just don’t make sense.”

Campbell River Director Charlie Cornfield said he didn’t agree with the auditor general for local government since day one because the position seemed redundant.

“The Inspector of Municipalities for local government deals with us, they’re the appropriate area to look after local government,” Cornfield said. “There just needs to be some tweaks. They just need to scrap this whole thing as a failed attempt and a waste of money.”