Auditor plan wasteful

Both the federal and provincial governments have auditors general to scrutinize their books, not just to see if the numbers balance but to rule on whether taxpayers are getting value for money.

Both the federal and provincial governments have auditors general to scrutinize their books, not just to see if the numbers balance but to rule on whether taxpayers are getting value for money.

Beyond making sure that money budgeted for office supplies is actually spent on office supplies, for instance, the report of the auditor general flags instances when department managers pay far too much for what they were getting. Additionally, they take an external look at whether business goals of government departments and programs are actually being met with all the money they spend.

These services are not cheap, but in the long run they pay dividends to taxpayers far beyond their own audit budgets.

Alberta’s auditor general, Fred Dunn, is responsible for an entire department; this year’s budget is $21.7 million. Even so, he had to cut or postpone 27 of 80 planned audits this year for lack of another $2 million.

That’s auditing one provincial government, with many departments, but a unified budget reporting system.

Now, consider all the municipalities in Alberta, each with its own style of budgeting and who knows what variety of methods of reporting.

But government MLA Art Johnson of Calgary-Hays believes an auditor general can scrutinize the books all these villages, towns and cities for $500,000 to $700,000 a year and compare apples to apples between them all.

If that were true, a municipal auditor general would be a fabulous investment. But it’s not true. Not even close.

Let’s give you an example. External audits on the books of non-profit societies in Red Deer that receive United Way or government contract funding probably exceeds a quarter million dollars a year.

It would be interesting for people who donate to local charities to know just what portion of their donated dollars goes into the offices of accountants and auditors before anything is spent on staff or programs dealing with poverty.

But these audits are vital, because people who give money to funding agencies like the United Way or pay taxes to government, which contracts services to non-profits, want to know that charities operate honestly and efficiently.

The numbers have to add up and an auditor signing off on the books of a local charity is putting his or her professional stamp on the document. Due diligence is not cheap.

The same applies to municipalities. Red Deer posts an annual audited financial statement every year, just like every other town and city, and anyone who wants to can see the document.

The process is expensive and ongoing, and we all pay for it.

So how MLA Johnson believes these audits can be scrutinized again in any depth at all and compare statements between municipalities for less than a million dollars a year — or less than $20 million a year — is a mystery.

Bill 202, the private member’s bill that Johnson is sponsoring to do this, is probably going to whither on the vine. As it should.

Yes, there are efficiencies to be gained. Yes, there have been instances of less-than-straighforward municipal financial reporting.

Yes, some municipalities have gotten into financial trouble over the years. It happens.

But if you put it to the taxpayers, they would probably say they trust the audit regulations already in place. They’d also say the millions that a provincial municipal auditor general would cost are better spent fixing potholes or building parks.

Greg Neiman is an Advocate editor.

Just Posted

Fredericton police release scene of shooting spree, but ‘damage’ remains

FREDERICTON — Police have released the Fredericton apartment complex that was the… Continue reading

Police seek public’s help after East Coast lobster thieves strike again

SAINT-SIMON, N.B. — There has been another crustacean caper on the East… Continue reading

Court hearing on Humboldt Broncos fundraising a first under new Saskatchewan law

SASKATOON — A court hearing related to money raised following the Humboldt… Continue reading

Weed’s want ads longer, marijuana job searches up as industry grows: study

OTTAWA — The growth of Canada’s soon-to-be-legal recreational pot industry is starting… Continue reading

Google Generation’s push for more technology transforming health care: survey

TORONTO — Digitally savvy Canadians who make up the Google Generation are… Continue reading

WATCH: A horse was neglected by its owner. Now the horse is suing

ESTACADA, Ore. - Justice is an 8-year-old American quarter horse who used… Continue reading

Red Sox old-timer’s memorabilia going up for sale

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Some items belonging to one of the Boston Red… Continue reading

Rival Korea leaders to meet in Pyongyang in September

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — The rival Koreas announced Monday that North… Continue reading

Charlottesville anniversary: Peaceful protests, few arrests

WASHINGTON — Thousands of people wanting to send a message that racism… Continue reading

‘I believe music heals people’: 12-year-old records tribute for shooting victims

YARMOUTH, N.S. — Twelve-year-old Josh Cochrane of Yarmouth, N.S., watched the news… Continue reading

Fallen officers’ families gather with Justin Trudeau after tragedy

The prime minister laid flowers at the growing memorial to the four victims of Friday’s violence

Fallen officers’ families gather with prime minister after tragedy

FREDERICTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with families of fallen Fredericton… Continue reading

Liberals showcase benefits of billions spent on infrastructure projects

OTTAWA — Little more than a year before the next federal election,… Continue reading

Fredericton parade ‘a way to celebrate even in the midst of this grief’: mayor

FREDERICTON — Two days after four people were gunned down in a… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month