Basia Ruta

Revelstoke welcomes attention from new auditor general for local government

City of Revelstoke officials are welcoming an upcoming audit by new auditor general for local government Basia Ruta

City officials are welcoming an upcoming review by new auditor general for local government Basia Ruta, who yesterday announced plans to examine 18 municipalities across the province.

The new Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) was created last year and Ruta was appointed in November of 2012. Her office will focus on performance audits – not financial ones – and will provide recommendations on economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

While in Revelstoke, she’ll be exploring the value Revelstoke taxpayers get for the services provided by the municipality. The audit announced on May 29 will focus specifically on ‘operational procurement’ – or the value the city gets when buying equipment and supplies.

Across the province, municipal leaders reacted negatively when the new auditor position was created, but Revelstoke city council supported the move, seeing it as an opportunity to get audit services at reduced cost.

“I look forward to this audit as another positive step in improving city operations,” said city councillor Steve Bender, who is the chairperson of the city’s finance committee.

The city’s chief administrative officer Tim Palmer also welcomed the audit. “We expect that we will learn from the process and that the findings will help us make improvements that facilitate our quest to bring the best value for our citizens,” Palmer said in a statement.

The creation of the auditor’s office has been supported by business groups who monitor and criticize local government spending and performance, such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and the BC Chamber of Commerce.

“B.C.’s business owners are pleased the government has shown leadership by establishing an independent Office of the Auditor General for Local Government,” said CFIB executive director Laura Jones in a statement in January. “Taxpayer accountability is always welcome. We are hopeful that municipalities will recognize the opportunity to provide British Columbians with greater transparency on how their tax dollars are spent and focus on providing the best value possible.”

BC Chamber CEO John Winter said the new auditor could create “increased transparency and accountability on how their tax dollars are spent.”

In a statement, auditor general Ruta promised transparency: “I intend to make sure the AGLG is a valuable and objective resource for all of British Columbia’s local governments, helping them provide the greatest possible value for every tax dollar they spend. Under my leadership, this office will be independent, accessible, fair and transparent as we carry out performance audits of local governments.”

The announcement of the audit is part of a four-phase audit process; the city will receive more info in the near future.

The results of the Revelstoke audit are due before Mar. 31, 2014.

During the financial plan process in April and May, one of the last items cut from the budget was an operations review, which meant hiring an outside consultant to review city operations. About $40,000 was budgeted for the study. The cut was opposed by city councillor Tony Scarcella, a perennial outspoken critic of city spending. He argued the study would point out opportunities for saving and save the city money in the long term.

The City of Revelstoke is currently auditing the fire department’s operations.

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