Vito Sgro CPA
I made a personal decision after the last municipal election not to comment on city issues for a period of time so anything I did say would not be considered “sour grapes”. The election was over, the people have spoken and I completely accepted the results. It was time to move on.
But, upon hearing of another incident where the public was purposely not told of incidents where the safety of the public and the environment were put at risk, I decided that for me enough was enough.
It is incomprehensible to me that city staff and then city council knew about a catastrophic sewage spill and did not immediately get this information to the public.
I have lost all confidence in the reporting functions, both financial and otherwise, of the city and since all municipalities in Ontario are under the direct jurisdiction of the Province, I now call on the appropriate Ministry to investigate how these breakdowns occurred and order necessary changes.
During the last municipal campaign I proposed that we urge the Province to create an independent Auditor General type of office for this city. As is the case for the Auditors General for both the provincial and federal governments, this office is created with the legislative authority to demand all information, financial or otherwise, from their respective administrations in order to perform any audits this office sees fit; to report all findings to the public on a yearly basis and to review the previous years requested changes to ensure that the municipality did make these necessary changes.
Provincial and Federal Auditor General’s staff do not just review financial information. They also review non-financial functions such as bridge and road maintenance schedules, delivery of program schedules, food processing inspections etc. A city Auditor General could have the same authority.
Although every organization has an internal audit division, in the case of Hamilton, this office is staffed by city employees under the direct control of senior city staff and ultimately, city council. An Auditor General’s office created by the Province would not be beholden to anyone from the city.
Non-compliance by the city would be subject to prosecution under Provincial legislation.
I do not understand how the Province has not mandated municipalities of this size to have this type of oversight already.
As for this current issue of the spillage, I have read comments from Ministry officials, respected environmentalists, academics and the general public that they can’t believe that the city chose not to tell the public under the “advice” from there legal representation. Their argument was any comments would open the city to larger financial damages? The city is going to be open to large fines and damage awards no matter when this information became public. Did they actually believe this information would never become public?
I especially find it hypocritical hearing from certain Councillors, who claim that the Environment is one of their main priorities. Your actions don’t support these claims.
To the citizens of Hamilton; the time for complacency has to come to an end.
Change has to come!
Vito Sgro is a Hamilton accountant and auditor and one of the founding shareholders of the Bay Observer.