February 28, 2021 (3 Minute Read)
The Bramptonist is going to bust several myths surrounding the Auditor General Model.
Previously, the Bramptonist reported that the City of Brampton is considering implementing an Auditor General Office to oversee taxpayer dollars. Given the response of our readers, we are conducting a follow-up story.
Myth 1 – Reporting Structure
Currently, Brampton has an “Internal Auditor” that has always reported to the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). The City of Brampton approved this reporting structure in 1987 and is similar to the model at the City of Mississauga. The advantage of this reporting structure is that the CAO is accountable to identify problems and risks within the corporation and implement a corrective strategy to address them.
In Toronto, an “Auditor General” reports directly to Council and has additional independent authority as permitted by law. For example, the Auditor General is independent of senior management, identifies which issues to review, and can order associated documents and interviews. This model is advantageous because Council is directly accountable for receiving the audit reports.
Back in 2017, as reported by the Bramptonist, Council voted against a recommendation from the Ontario Ombudsman to install an Auditor General Office reporting directly to Council. They voted to keep the status quo where the Auditor reports directly to the CAO. Voting for this CAO-based model was Councillor Jeff Bowman. Surprisingly, he is now criticizing and vocally rallying, against the current CAO, for reporting structures involving Freedom of Information and Audit that existed for years.
How they voted in 2017
Auditor General Reporting to Council: Mayor Linda Jeffrey, Councillors Pat Fortini, and Gurpreet Dhillon.
Internal Auditor Reporting to CAO: Councillors Jeff Bowman, Doug Whillans, Michael Palleschi, and former Councillors John Sprovieri, Elaine Moore, Grant Gibson, and Gael Miles
(Absent: Councillor Martin Medeiros)
Myth 2 – Selecting an Auditor
The City’s CAO selects an “Internal Auditor”, whereas Council selects an “Auditor General”.
In Brampton, the Mayor has a single vote and cannot solely select an Auditor General. A majority of Councillors (six votes) must choose an individual for the position and approve the budget. However, the goal is to achieve unanimous consent.
Myth 3 – The City’s Internal Auditor was Fired
The City’s Internal Auditor was hired on a one-year contract. The contract expired, and the City’s CAO is awaiting Council’s decision before continuing with a contract extension. If Council selects the “Auditor General” option, and if the Internal Auditor’s contract was extended, the City could unnecessarily encounter severance costs.
The Toronto Auditor General Model
Looking at best practices in Canada, the Toronto model appears to be superior in delivering the audit mandate since its implementation in 2003.
The Ontario Municipal Act authorizes “the municipality to appoint an Auditor General who reports to council and is responsible for assisting the council in holding itself and its administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for the achievement of value for money in municipal operations,” and further that the Auditor General shall perform “his or her responsibilities. . . in an independent manner”.
Toronto’s Auditor General has a clear mandate and is responsible for “assisting City Council in holding itself and City administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for the achievement of value for money in City operations.”
Toronto’s Auditor General’s Office is independent of management. It has the authority to conduct financial, operational, compliance, information systems, forensic, and other unique reviews of:
- City departments:
- City agencies and corporations;
- Local boards provided for under the City of Toronto Act; and
- Other entities the City is related to or has an interest in.
On February 3rd, Toronto’s Office of the Auditor General presented the Auditor General’s 2020 Annual Report: Demonstrating the Auditor General’s Office’s Value. In the report, Toronto’s Auditor General Beverly Romeo-Beehler offers the value of her Office to taxpayers, stating that “Audits make a difference when recommendations are implemented. By taking action on our audit recommendations, the City has achieved savings of $385.3 million since 2016. For every dollar invested in our Office, there was a return of approximately $12.70.”
This report should be required reading for Members of City Council to decide on an Auditor General for Brampton in the coming months.