A planned Office of the Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) will be based in Surrey.
The provincial government introduced legislation to establish the promised auditor of municipal spending but debate and passage will be delayed until a spring session of the Legislature.
Premier Christy Clark said the AGLG’s main role will be to help cities find efficiencies in spending and improve program effectiveness by providing neutral, non-binding advice – not by imposing solutions.
It will be up to city councils to decide what action to take on any recommendations, she said, adding their decisions on taxation, land use and other services will remain unrestricted.
Clark said the office will strengthen local government accountability and ensure the best possible return on investment for taxpayer dollars.
AGLG performance audits assessing whether how effective city operations are in providing value for money will be made public.
“The same reports would give local governments important information about
how to streamline processes and identify the most efficient use of public
funds, maximizing the use of taxpayer dollars,” said Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong.
Audits will target specific services, not a city’s entire operations.
Also covered are regional districts, including Metro Vancouver’s utility arms, and any corporations or other entities controlled by cities or regional districts.
Delegates at September’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention strongly criticized the planned municipal auditor, suspecting its aim is to pressure elected councils to change their policies and priorities. Some predicted the office itself will be a waste of money.
Metro Vancouver mayors urged the province in October to put TransLink under the scrutiny of the new auditor.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business applauded the announcement.
“We believe having an independent, unbiased body to scrutinize municipal spending and conduct performance audits will be an extremely effective step in curbing municipal overspending,” said CFIB spokeswoman Shachi Kurl.