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Audits unnecessary, apology for “silly buggers” a must

John Vollmar's picture
Mon, 03/04/2019 - 15:23 -- John Vollmar

A report on the establishment of an election committee two and a half years from now did not meet with Councilor Margaret Bird’s approval, and as a result, Ms. Bird suggests that administration at City Hall is playing “silly buggers”. This is how the article by Chris Cooke with Margaret Bird, in the February issue of First Monday begins. And Bird’s reaction shows that she does not understand the inner workings of City Hall. The report regarding the voting committee clearly spells out why a recommendation to delay a committee is justified. At any rate, Ms. Bird’s “silly buggers” comment is inappropriate and not warranted.

However, in the same column, an interview (of sorts) with Councilor Margaret Bird, Ms. Bird spoke about her desire to see a financial audit performed on the Centennial Park projects. It would seem Ms. Bird, in keeping with some of the members of the public pre-election (including the utterances of Councilor Boushy) has determined that something untoward may have occurred during the rehabilitation of the Park. At the January 21 meeting of council, staff received direction to provide a report on the various methods of auditing, a report that was provided to council for their February 11 meeting. The identified audits of Financial, Forensic and Environmental were explained in the report, and all come with a dollar amount which could be formidable.

One of the questions when entertaining the idea of an outside audit is the objective, according to the staff report. “Is it to identify if fraud occurred, or if there were process inefficiencies?” Other possibilities were procedure avoidance, budget/forecasting issues, payment outside of contract and the determination that the project was completed cost effectively. All of these possible prerequisites to obtain an audit seem to call into question the integrity of City Staff as they dealt with the problems that plagued Centennial Park. Many of the staff involved are no longer in the employ of the City.

According to the report of February 11, information on Centennial Park projects was provided to council on January 24, and that information included a documentation of the work completed in the four projects, including costs and people consulted on the park, timeline. Also made available was the “cost summary by project, summary of payments by vendor for the projects, and a summation of all Council reports regarding the Centennial Park projects, linking with documents and a summary of approved funding.

Between the reports to council regarding the Park, the direction of the past council to press forward with the rebuilding of the site, (including the new construction of multiple boat ramps), one would be able to suggest that there is ample information to review and understand exactly what was required from the outset of the project. Any pursuant questions could be asked by staff.

One wonders why, with the explanation of audits, the reports received by council, and even the fact that City Auditors, BDO Canada LLP, to put forth an opinion of the management of City finances go through evidence, test, confirmations, etc. to ensure the absence of “material misstatement.” There is not, nor has there ever been, any warranted indication of wrongdoing or questionable practices by staff or council. Those who might believe so are ill-informed, or in my opinion, biased.

An audit or audits would be costly and unwarranted.

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