A municipal auditor general isn’t a cure-all for local government waste

Local governments across the province spend nearly $10 billion of our hard-earned money annually

By Niels Veldhuis and Charles Lammam

Fraser Institute

BC Premier Christy Clark’s recent announcement that her government will create an auditor general for local government (AGLG) is a ray of good news for British Columbians.

After all, local governments across the province spend nearly $10 billion of our hard-earned money annually with little real scrutiny.

Although municipal finances are currently audited, the audits only determine if the finances are accurately reported – not whether taxpayers received value for the money.

As Canadians have witnessed at the federal and provincial levels, auditor generals across the country expose numerous government failures every year – from cost overruns and governments failing to achieve their stated objectives to governments simply spending our money unnecessarily.

There’s little doubt that a municipal auditor will expose similar accounts of government waste at the local level. While the increased exposure of government failure is important, the real question is what will be done about it?

According to the Clark government, the AGLG’s role will be to conduct performance audits to determine if taxpayers are getting value for money. Put differently, the AGLG will investigate local government programs and initiatives to assess whether they’re delivered efficiently and whether the desired results were achieved.

But the AGLG, like its federal and provincial counterparts, will be limited in that it will not “question the merits of policy decisions or objectives of a local government.” In other words, the AGLG will not comment on policy choices; only on the quality of their implementation. The AGLG will also provide non-binding recommendations to the audited local governments through publicly released reports.

Without the ability to question the merits of policy decisions and the authority to force municipalities to respond to audits with measurable plans to overcome issues identified by the auditor general, British Columbians should be wary of the proposed AGLG’s effectiveness.

Of course, the audits and public reports will receive significant attention, especially in the media, putting increased pressure on politicians and bureaucrats to deliver better value. But the experience from other levels of government shows that increased exposure does not lead to significant corrective action.

For instance, at the federal level, the auditor general highlighted more than 300 cases of government waste between 1992 and 2006. These failures amounted to an estimated cost of up to $125 billion. Importantly, the failures occurred regardless of the party in power and many reoccurred despite previous warnings by the auditor general.

To ensure British Columbians get better value for money, other reforms are needed.

Just Posted

Campbell River supportive living facility celebrates 25 years amid housing crunch

Willow Point Supportive Living Society provides rental units to low-income seniors

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

Chili Fest raises funds for Campbell River community group

Jack-o’-lanterns take over Spirit Square during Halloween event

Campbell River RCMP catch youth with stolen handgun

Gun was allegedly stolen in break-and-enter on Dogwood St.

‘Violent’ wanted man possibly in Campbell River – Crime Stoppers

A wanted man is “violent” and “may be in the Campbell River… Continue reading

VIDEO: Campbell River resident captures backyard bears in photos and video

Amateur photographer David Baar, who lives on Chum Rd. in North Campbell… Continue reading

Transport Canada to take new look at rules, research on school bus seatbelts

Canada doesn’t currently require seatbelts on school buses

Sockeye run in Shuswap expected to be close to 2014 numbers

Salute to the Sockeye on Adams River continues until Sunday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m.

Michelle Mungall’s baby first in B.C. legislature chamber

B.C. energy minister praises support of staff, fellow MLAs

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

5 tips for talking to your kids about cannabis

Health officials recommend sharing a harm reduction-related message.

NHL players say Canada’s legalization of marijuana won’t impact them

NHL players say the legalization of marijuana in Canada won’t change how they go about their business.

Automated cars could kill wide range of jobs, federal documents say

Internal government documents show that more than one million jobs could be lost to automated vehicles, with ripple effects far beyond the likeliest professions.

Private marijuana stores should shut down, Mike Farnworth says

B.C. has approved 62 licences, but they still need local approval

Most Read