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The Premier insists the new Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) will not impose binding decisions on local governments, or call into question the merits of policy decisions or objectives of a local government, but rather investigate questions such as whether a service is undertaken as economically and efficiently as possible, whether a service is effective in achieving its intended results, and whether local governments are sufficiently monitoring their operations.

“This office will support the goals of the Families First Agenda by strengthening local government accountability and ensuring B.C. families receive the best possible return on investment for their taxpayer dollars,” said Clark in a statement. “Enhanced stewardship of assets and service delivery means a better quality of life for British Columbians and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

The AGLG, based in Surrey, will employ an auditor general up to 12 staff members at a cost of about $2.6 million annually. The office would not audit every local government in the province every year, but rather carry out about a dozen audits of specific programs or services per year based on priorities identified in an annual service plan.

The AGLG would be overseen by an Audit Council comprised of at least five individuals with relevant professional expertise in accounting, auditing, or local or provincial governance. Those members would be appointed by the Province for a maximum term of three years, and based on consultations with business and taxpayer interests.

Local government leaders in the Peace region greeted the announcement with mixed reviews.

Dawson Creek Mayor Mike Bernier said while there were concerns over how much authority the office would hold over elected officials, he said he is satisfied with the scope of the office being more of an advisory body, and said it should be a useful tool for local governments to find operational efficiencies.

“I think it would be definitely be useful,” said Bernier. “If we’re going to be doing a project in Dawson Creek five years from now, and maybe another municipality did the same one, it would be a great opportunity to say, ‘Was that project audited? What did they do wrong, and how can we make sure we don’t make the same mistakes?’ I think that’s a benefit to the local taxpayer if we can do something more efficiently.”

He said, as with other audits, there will be a cost associated with having City staff participate in those performance audits, but he said he doesn’t think that requirement will be to onerous on local governments.

Fort St. John’s outgoing Mayor, Bruce Lantz, disagrees, however. He said he doesn’t think an auditor general is necessary or useful at all to local governments.

“I think that local government of any kind, whether it be a municipal council or regional district, gets audited by the people who count, the electorate, every single day of the year when we go to the grocery store or to the coffee shop, or when folks come into City Hall or to the regional district office to talk to us,” said Lantz. “Those are the people we need to answer to.”

“The suggestion that I hear in the public forum around the province from some, that local governments are frivously spending money and need some ‘super-person’ to come in and tell them how to do their job better, I think is ridiculous.” 

Karen Goodings, chair of the board of the Peace River Regional District, agreed with Lantz, saying she feels the auditor general position is not necessary.

“We have nothing to hide as local governments. I’m sure the (local government) auditor general will be very bored in their job,” said Goodings.

She said the regional district, for example, already has its financial records audited every year, holds extensive budget deliberations every year where directors comb through programs and services looking for inefficiencies, and is prohibited by law, as all local governments are, from running a budget deficit.

“We’re not sure what a local government auditor general will do, but we will see, I’m sure, in the first year whether it has been a move that makes sense,” said the chair. “I’m comfortable with it, because I’m far as I’m concerned our local governments are open and accountable now.”

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