EDITORIAL: Plan raises more issues

Proposed municipal auditor general frowned upon by local politicians

For a plan that aims to save every nickel and dime, things just don’t seem to add up. The B.C. government is planning to appoint a municipal auditor general in charge of reviewing the spending of cities, towns and villages.

The concept has been frowned upon by civic politicians, despite assertions the municipal auditor wouldn’t overrule local government decisions. But the notion of “performance audits” made politicians wonder how far the government wants to go.

We are always in favour of accountability, and have a hard time tolerating arguments that let politicians hide mistakes. But this issue is a bit thorny, given the possible agendas at play. We hear a lot from civic officials about downloaded costs from senior levels of government and how they have one revenue source: property taxes. So what if a potential municipal auditor found municipalities were running like well-oiled machines? Would that finally prompt senior levels of government to adjust funding formulas?

That assessment may be too optimistic. But if it can fix a broken system, perhaps it should be explored. Then again, civic officials say financial accountability is already shared through UBCM, meaning the pennies are already being pinched.

Government officials placated municipal politicians by suggesting a separate oversight committee or council to ensure the municipal auditor’s independence. So they are willing to spend money to insulate a whole new level of bureaucracy that is bound to cost more money, all to see where money can be saved?

At that juncture, we have to question the motivation behind a municipal auditor general. Cough up a reason, and we might find it in the public’s best interests. Until then, the math doesn’t seem to add up.

— Penticton Western News