Mayor Linda Jeffrey has pushed for greater scrutiny of the City of Brampton’s books for some time now.
In 2015 council voted to bring former Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter to have a look at the city’s financials. McCarter uncovered gaps in the city’s books and a massive mound of debt — to the tune of $215 million. It resulted in improvements in some city hall policies and practices.
Fast forward to July 2017. The mayor put forward a motion to have McCarter come back and have a second look at the city’s financial state, but her motion was rejected by council.
Now Jeffrey is facing another roadblock after her most recent motion–to bring in a permanent auditor general into city hall–was rejected. Even with a persistent cloud of doubt hanging Brampton’s municipal government the past few years, council still voted to forgo the permanent auditor.
The bailout of a private hockey team, $1.25 million in funds going to non-union staff without council knowledge and the most recent public outcry over the purchase of a failing golf course for $11.6 million are just a few controversies that have damaged the public trust in city hall processes.
While Brampton has been on an upward trajectory, with significant improvements and increased public engagement levels, it’s clear council still has work to do to regain the trust and confidence of the public.
“Following an investigation into municipal practices at the city on procurement (March 2017), the Ombudsman of Ontario suggested that establishing an independent, permanent auditor general would help re-establish the public’s confidence in the city and ensure that the public trusts the city to act accountably, openly, and transparently,” says Mayor Linda Jeffrey.
But not all see it the same way as Jeffrey. Some veteran councillors who ran on platform promises of greater transparency after tumultuous times with Susan Fennell were, ironically, not in favour of the motion.
Councillor Elaine Moore, for example, has expressed concern that by examining the city’s books yet again, it would only reinforce feelings of distrust left over from the Fennell era.
Others argue that the city is back on track financially and needs no further oversight outside of yearly reports provided by city staff on the state of Brampton’s financials.
So with all of the recent controversies over decisions at city hall, and baggage that still persists from years of sparse oversight during previous council terms, does council owe it to the public to go above and beyond in its efforts to maintain transparency? The mayor thinks so: “In order to rid ourselves of the baggage of the past, we need to welcome the scrutiny of oversight. I believe financial accountability, openness, and transparency are priceless and critical to inspiring public confidence in local government,” says Jeffrey.
How the votes fell
Voted Against Independent Auditor General
Elaine Moore (Wards 1/5)
Grant Gibson (Wards 1/5)
Michael Palleschi (Wards 2/6)
Doug Whillans (Wards 2/6)
Jeff Bowman (Wards 3/4)
Gael Miles (Wards 7/8)
John Sprovieri (Wards 9/10)
Voted In Favour of Independent Auditor General
Mayor Linda Jeffrey
Pat Fortini (Wards 7/8)
Gurpreet Dhillon (Wards 9/10)
Martin Medeiros (Wards 3/4)