Auditor General for Local Government Basia Ruta (left) is being criticized for delays by Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Delayed municipal audits under fire

Findings by Auditor General for Local Government to be withheld during municipal election campaigns

B.C.’s Auditor General for Local Government is behind schedule in probing several municipalities and won’t table their audits until early 2015, after the November municipal elections.

Basia Ruta had set an original target of this past spring to complete audits on either operational procurement or policing budget and contract oversight for 18 municipalities, including Delta, Vernon, West Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria and New Westminster.

Just two reports have been finished – one focusing on an untendered contract in Rossland and the other on general municipal procurement.

Ruta said the work is taking longer than anticipated and it would be inappropriate to release any audits of individual cities this fall during local campaigns, noting that’s not done by federal or provincial auditors-general either.

“You really need to respect the democratic process and the reports are not to be perceived to be biasing judgment,” she said.

“I find that ridiculous,” said Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman. “What better time to give the public information than in an election when they can act upon it in an expeditious manner?”

Bateman said he’s disappointed with the delays and said it appears Ruta’s two-year-old Surrey office bit off more than it could chew in terms of the number of audits pursued.

Policing has been a top issue in Surrey and Bateman said it would have been “perfectly useful” for voters to have had Ruta’s audit of how the City of Surrey is managing its policing contract before they go to the polls.

Ruta said many outstanding audits are still awaiting comment from local municipalities before they can be finalized.

She said she also wanted a range of municipalities of different size and representing different regions analyzed in parallel to ease comparisons between them and to improve the overall results.