Accountability. Transparency. Efficiency. These are the principles by which governments, municipal or otherwise, must operate.
And though they have become buzzwords of late, and politicians, almost casually now, toss the words around, the import these terms hold cannot be dismissed or taken lightly.
In these three words are held most of what taxpayers should expect from their elected officials and from government.
Politicians must be complimented when its warranted and criticized when it is necessary. For democracy to function, government must be held to account for decisions made.
That is impossible if there is no paper trail, if there is no mechanism by which to see how a course of action was chosen. In short, if there is no transparency, accountability is unattainable.
And when it comes to spending our money, taxpayers need to know that the services for which they are paying are being delivered in the most cost-conscious way possible. Waste, wherever it might be found, must not be tolerated.
When these three principles are working together, government functions well. Unfortunately, too often this is not the case.
Which is why taxpayers must view elected officials and governments with a healthy dose of scepticism.
The vast majority of politicians enter politics because they care about their communities and fellow citizens, and likely feel they have something worthwhile to contribute.
But, because the decisions they help to make have such wide-ranging implications, it behooves taxpayers to be critical, to question, in an objective and thoughtful way, those decisions.
It also behooves government to acknowledge that it cannot always be trusted, and to put checks and balances in place to minimize impropriety, and to expose missteps and wrongdoings when they occur.
That is why Greater Sudbury city council’s decision to renew Auditor General Brian Bigger’s contract was the right one to make, both from a public relations and a procedural angle.
Bigger has proven himself to be a staunch defender of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. He was not afraid to butt heads with city councillors over the ticket scandal at Sudbury Transit, a move which helped pave the way for a criminal investigation over the issue.
When he was stonewalled over access to certain documents in relation to the Transit issue, Bigger did not back down. He retained a lawyer, not for himself, but for everyone who pays into Greater Sudbury’s coffers. This too led to conflict with elected officials.
City council has not made many decisions which earned applause from the Greater Sudbury Taxpayers Association, but this one did. The head of the association, Dan Melanson, said Bigger’s work provides a window into the goings on at Tom Davies Square that has served taxpayers well.
We agree. And with the contract renewal, Bigger can continue to guard that window for some time.
Posted by Vivian Scinto