While there’s widespread support for the idea, city councillors voted Jan. 29 to defer a decision on whether to make the auditor general’s office permanent.
The deferral is to give city staff time to prepare a report on options about exactly what form the permanent “audit function” should take -- whether there should be a full-time auditor general with a staff, or whether the job could be contracted out in some form.
Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour said city council would be criticized, no matter what they decide. So rather than “mess this up,” they should wait for the staff report.
“I believe strongly we require an audit function,” Kilgour said. “I’m just not sure which option.
“But it has to continue to be transparent ... unfettered and arms length.”
Kilgour said a staff report could detail what their options are, how much each would cost, what other municipalities do, and what they could expect for the money.
The original motion, by Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk, called for the auditor general’s office to become permanent. She said the original bylaw tied the person and the office together. Her motion would have separated the two and made the office permanent.
“I have always supported the auditor general’s office,” Matichuk said.
But Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis suggested changes to the audit committee that oversees the auditor’s office. Rather than be made up of only city councillors, he suggested two councillors sit on the committee with three members of the public, possibly people with accounting expertise.
Dupuis said current auditor Brian Bigger could apply for another contract, but other people should be invited to apply for the job, as well.
Ward 2 Coun. Jacques Barbeau said when they created the office in 2009, they were breaking new ground. He supported the idea of waiting for a staff report to examine all their options. He said it would be worth it to look at the costs and benefits of each option and make a decision from there.
Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli said she supports a “permanent audit function,” but said a full-time auditor general isn’t necessarily the best option and contracting it out could be cheaper.
Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino said he liked the concept of citizens sitting on audit committee.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Cimino said. “It adds to how we are being transparent.”
Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli said the office should be permanent. Belli said he doubts someone could do a proper job as a consultant.
“I don't know if we’d get the results we're looking for” from a consultant, he said.
Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett said it made no sense to amend the mayor’s motion asking for a staff report on options, while still voting to make the auditor’s office permanent. Kett said they should defer the motion until the get the staff report, or vote on the mayor’s original motion.
“You can’t do both,” Kett said.
He also said even if they passed the original motion to make the office permanent, the next council elected in 2014 could still change its mind.
“So it’s only permanent for the next two years.”
In the end, councillors voted to defer the motion until the staff report is complete.