Last week was a big one for Greater Sudbury Auditor General Brian Bigger.
Not only did he uncover decades-old lack of oversight in the municipal road repair system, but also presented council with 18 recommendations to make the contentious and controversial Healthy Community Initiative funds (ward funds) more transparent and accountable.
The majority of council, possibly to their detriment, was not in favour of relinquishing control of the funds to staff, a fact of which Bigger was likely aware before presenting his case, but that did not stop him from making the suggestion and potentially earning yet more ire from officials.
In his audit of missing revenue and other issues with Sudbury Transit, he collided with elected officials and the municipality’s lawyer, even going so far as to retain his own counsel to elicit a legal opinion after reaching an impasse with city solicitor Jamie Canapini over access to information.
His detective work has proven valuable to taxpayers and, in many ways, to city councillors as well.
The road repair system audit saw him bring to light a fractured system of oversight that has likely cost taxpayers millions of dollars over the last three decades.
And, in attempting to suggest that elected officials should not have free reign to spend tax money without a formalized system of accountability, he has gone up against the entrenched fiefdoms of the ward system that has frustrated so many ratepayers.
He’s made headlines for his work, saved taxpayers money, earned kudos from the Greater Sudbury Taxpayer’s Association and, in a recent audit of the auditor’s office, earned what amounts to an ‘A’ from his professional peers.
In his 3.5 years on the job, he has potentially saved taxpayers some $2 million.
It is both unfortunate and short-sighted that some around the council table look at Bigger as something of an enemy. His detective work has proven valuable to taxpayers and, in many ways, to city councillors as well.
From people on the street to comments posted to social media, there is a significant and vocal segment of the population who, regardless of their feelings toward individual councillors, view council as a whole with distrust.
In letters to the editor and in comments posted under stories on the website, words like “corrupt” and “lazy” are often used to describe council and its workings. We’re not suggesting that opinion amounts to fact, but it cannot be denied that the perception exists and that it is pervasive.
Thanks to the information his audits have managed to uncover, Bigger seems to have been able to transcend this. Showing more support for the auditor would likely help improve council’s optics among the public.
But Bigger is not some kind of mythical hero. He is simply doing the job he was hired to do, following the numbers where they may lead.
Fortunately for taxpayers, the trails he has followed have led to improved accountability and transparency. Hopefully, his future work does the same.