The Hamilton Police Services Board wishes Shekar Chandrashekar would go away. The retired City of Hamilton accounting employee has been pressing for greater transparency in the Police financial operations through a separate corporate audit. Currently the Police finances are included as part of the overall city consolidated audit which also includes the Library, BIA’s and the Hamilton Waterfront Trust, among other agencies. Chandrashekar argues that such an audit provides insufficient scrutiny of the Police financial operations.
We think he is right. To request an audit is not to cast any aspersions on the current financial operation of the police services. We are talking about a routine annual audit, not a forensic audit. A city staff report on Mr. Chandrasekhar’s concerns around police finances, struck us as more an attempt to discredit his concerns than to deal with the fundamental issue of whether a board of directors has the right, even the duty to request an audit. In the private sector and most of the public sector, it would be ludicrous to even suggest that a private company NOT have an audit prepared for the board. Good governance dictates that a board must satisfy itself that a corporation’s financial operations adhere to best practices.
The fact that the Police Services Board is resisting something that is frankly the norm almost everywhere, speaks to the opaque system of governance that surrounds Ontario Police Services generally. A notable exception is the Niagara Police Services Board which does employ outside auditors without any impairment of police operations. Compare their policy on communications to Hamilton’s. In Niagara a board member may publicly dissent from any board decision as long as he or she make it clear they are expressing a personal opinion. In Hamilton the rule is that only the Chair can speak and members may not dissent publicly—a rule that would not likely survive a Charter challenge. To suggest as the city audit report did, namely that there already exists adequate oversight through the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, is simply not true. The OCPC is more opaque in its operations than the average police service and generally seems to encourage the chief-centric approach that reduces most Police Services Boards to not much more than a focus group for the Chief. This is not to attack the current Chief in Hamilton who has done a good job in reducing crime and in challenging the old boys club at the Hamilton Police Services. This is simply an appeal for good governance. Hopefully Hamilton Council can act where the local Police Services Board has frankly failed.