Transparency has been a big topic of conversation in Brampton the last few years. Given the previous council’s dysfunction, some of which has trickled into the current day, Bramptonians have become increasingly wary.
Mayor Linda Jeffrey, who ran on a platform of greater transparency, put forward a motion at the beginning of the month to bring back Ontario’s former Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter for a second look at the city’s books.
McCarter was previously hired in 2015 to take look at the Brampton’s accounting and made recommendations Jeffrey hoped to address with a second look.
Unfortunately, Jeffrey’s motion was shot down in a 7-4 vote, ironically by veteran councillors who demanded greater oversight during the Fennel era.
In a live interview Monday, Jeffrey reiterated the importance and need to bring back McCarter.
While things have improved to some degree, distrust still permeates. A report recently uncovered $1.25 million in staff bonus payouts council was not aware of, and a $28 million lawsuit about alleged misconduct in the city’s procurement processes still looms.
“Council has said it doesn’t make a difference, but it absolutely makes a difference,” said Jeffrey. “The public needs to have the confidence that we’ve got our house in order financially.”
Jeffrey also pointed out that a lack of transparency could affect Brampton’s investment attractiveness and appeal to outside businesses looking to move in and bring jobs to the city.
The mayor added, “[It’s not only good] for the public but for business. If [businesses] don’t have confidence in the fact that we’re following best practices, they don’t want to invest in Brampton.”
Despite this, some councillors disagree with Jeffrey and believe bringing back the auditor is a useless exercise. Councillor Elaine Moore thinks by bringing back the auditor it would “reinforces the negative and concerning opinions that some people in the community have.”
It’s a common practice in other cities. In recent months, Toronto’s auditor general uncovered bid rigging in the procurement of the city’s pavement contracts, overpayment of land purchased by the city, and possible abuse of Toronto’s city employee health benefits program.
While Brampton’s motion was not passed, the Ombudsman, who has been investigating Brampton for months, is expected to come back with a recommendation in the coming weeks to bring on an independent auditor. Jeffrey says she isn’t confident that council wants that, either, but maintains that it’s necessary.
“It helps to have another set of eyes,” said Jeffrey. “Large businesses—and the city is a large business—bring in outside auditing firms to check out the books. It’s common, we do it everywhere else in the world, I don’t see why the city of Brampton should be an exception.”
How The Votes Fell
Yes to bringing in the Auditor General
Mayor Linda Jeffrey
Councillor Martin Medeiros (Ward 3/4)
Councillor Pat Fortini (Ward 7/8)
Councillor Gurpreet Dhillon (Ward 9/10)
No to bringing in the Auditor General
Councillor Elaine Moore (Ward 1/5)
Councillor Grant Gibson (Ward 1/5)
Councillor Doug Whillans (Ward 2/6)
Councillor Michael Palleschi (Ward 2/6)
Councillor Jeff Bowman (Ward 3/4)
Councillor Gael Miles (Ward 7/8)
Councillor John Sprovieri (Ward 9/10)