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Officials believe municipal auditor may duplicate services

A proposed provincial municipal auditor general may duplicate procedures already in place.

A proposed provincial municipal auditor general may duplicate procedures already in place.

“I think it’s a bit of overkill personally,” said Red Deer Mayor Morris Flewwelling.

“We have an internal audit system that is very thorough in the city and we have an external audit annually and that external audit is made available to the government as part of our annual report.”

The Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Community Services is asking for public input on Bill 202, which would create a municipal auditor general who could carry out random audits of municipalities and make recommendations about their financial statements. The public can make submissions until July 31.

Calgary-Hays MLA Art Johnson put forward the private member’s bill after speaking to constituents and members of the Chamber of Commerce. He said there is an auditor general at both the provincial and federal levels, but none that oversees municipalities.

Johnson said he hasn’t put the bill forward because he thinks there will be fraudulent activity found. Instead he hopes it could determine best practices in purchasing different municipal goods or services so the municipalities could save money.

The proposal for a municipal auditor general comes the same year that the provincial Auditor General Fred Dunn had to cut or postpone 27 out of 80 audits for this year because he didn’t get the $2-million funding boost needed from an all-party legislature committee.

Johnson said cost with the municipal auditor general proposal is a challenge. He estimates the cost of having a municipal auditor general to be between $500,000 and $700,000 a year.

“I think the fact that we’re talking about it and the committee is getting input on it is good; whether it is going to go forward, I don’t know.”

Flewwelling said he could see value in having an auditor general if he or she would compare the books of similar-sized cities in the province, including Red Deer, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie and Medicine Hat, to see if there were discrepancies in spending and if something could be done more efficiently.

However, he said as the third largest city, the internal and external audits in Red Deer are done in a professional manner and are very rigorous and would withstand scrutiny.

He said the auditors go through all of the cities’ numbers, accounts and even review minutes and policies. He said an audit committee even meets throughout the year.

“I think any further audit of those numbers would be quite superfluous,” Flewwelling said. His comments were echoed by Lacombe Mayor Judy Gordon.

“We are legislated to have an audited financial statement, which is important because we are dealing with public money. So I don’t question that at all. I’m just wondering if this is a duplication?” Gordon said.