Municipal auditor not needed in Chilliwack: Chamber prez

Chilliwack city council doesn’t need a municipal auditor-general to review its financial affairs, says Jason Lum, president of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce.

Chilliwack city council doesn’t need a municipal auditor-general to review its financial affairs, says Jason Lum, president of the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean other B.C. municipalities don’t, he added.

“Chilliwack city council has a proven track record of financial responsibility,” he said. “I have to hand it to the Chilliwack council (because) over the last nine years they’ve done a good job of keeping business taxes low.”

Lum also said Chilliwack councillors and senior staff “have been open and transparent with the chamber, and we have a standing invitation to go over the budget at any time.”

But not all B.C. municipalities “subscribe to the same kind of financial responsibility,” he said.

Lum wouldn’t name the municipalities that don’t.

“Certainly there’s been talk about municipalities .. that rely on one or two major corporations for half their city budget,” he said.

And in some cases, he said, accounting standards are not being met.

“I think what we’re hearing from the B.C. Chamber is those standards … don’t govern how the money is being spent,” he said. “I think that’s what the municipal auditor would do.”

B.C. Chamber of Commerce president John Winter said in a Friday news release that he is “disappointed” by the motion passed at the Union of B.C. Municipalities that disagrees with the need for a MAG office because “it is simply untrue … that the requirements of the MAG’s office are already met by government legislation and regulation.”

“Nowhere is local government subject to independent, third-party analysis over how they are spending taxpayers’ money and whether they are getting value for that money,” he said.

But Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz said it’s not yet clear how the MAG would work, although Premier Christy Clark has indicated “it’s coming, and that’s the end of it.”

The legislation creating the MAG office is expected to be introduced sometime this month.

“The biggest issue for the UBCM is that we feel we are accountable to taxpayers,” Gaetz said. “Nobody is afraid of scrutiny. We welcome scrutiny, but we want to know (the details).”

“We want to know what the government is trying to fix,” she said. “We’ve never had an answer to that.”

Gaetz also questioned whether an auditor-general would have the resources to review the budgets of 192 local governments in B.C.

And who would pay for time spent by municipal staff involved in the audit? she asked.

“I predict there will be slim pickings when it comes to (accounting issues) that have gone awry with local governments,” she said.

The Chilliwack’s city budget is already audited by a professional accountant.

The UBCM motion instructs the executive to continue negotiations with provincial officials.

Gaetz and Lum declined to comment on the “qualified audit report” the B.C. government received last week, and that same government’s move to hold municipalities accountable.

Auditor-General John Doyle said in a news release that such a report “indicates to the users … that some of the information is not auditable or is misleading.”

“During the last 15 years, this office has issued qualified audit reports on the Province’s financial statements 12 times,” he said. “For a government that strives for transparency and accountability, this is unacceptable.”

rfreeman@theprogress.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cookie’s Grill owners help Meals on Wheels keep rolling in Chilliwack

Colleen and Colin Connolly are working hard to get food to seniors and others in need of a good meal

Chilliwack hospital offers thank-you message to community

Chilliwack health-care workers say they have heard everyone’s support throughout COVID-19 pandemic

UPDATE: Vehicle crash leaves 1,200 Chilliwack BC Hydro customers in the dark

Motor vehicle incident involving power pole could leave Fairfield Island residents in dark until 7:30 p.m.

Organ donation gives Fraser Valley RCMP officer a second chance at life

Cathleen Falebrinza celebrates Green Shirt Day after receiving a double lung transplant in 2016.

From tennis to basketball to pickleball all sports courts closed in Chilliwack

City of Chilliwack closed all facilities in town to encourage folks adhere to physical distancing

COVID-19: 4 new deaths, 25 new cases but only in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health

A total of 1,291 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

COVID-19: Don’t get away for Easter weekend, Dr. Bonnie Henry warns

John Horgan, Adrian Dix call 130 faith leaders as holidays approach

COVID-19: Trudeau says 30K ventilators on the way; 3.6M Canadians claim benefits

Canada has seen more than 17,000 cases and at least 345 deaths due to COVID-19

RCMP call on kids to name latest foal recruits

The baby horses names are to start with the letter ‘S’

As Canadians return home amid pandemic, border crossings dip to just 5% of usual traffic

Non-commercial land crossing dipped by 95%, air travel dropped by 96 per cent, according to the CBSA

Logan Boulet Effect: Green Shirt Day calls on Canadians to become organ donors

While social distancing, the day also honours the 16 lives lost in the 2018 Humboldt Broncos Crash

COMMENTARY: Knowing where COVID-19 cases are does not protect you

Dr. Bonnie Henry explains why B.C. withholds community names

B.C. wide burning restrictions come into effect April 16

‘Larger open burns pose an unnecessary risk and could detract from wildfire detection’

Most Read