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City needs to create an independent auditor-general position

 

City needs to create an independent auditor-general position

The integrity and the overall Governance of the City of Hamilton is once again in question with the release of a YouTube video where a current sitting Councillor is making salacious claims of utter incompetence or downright criminal wrongdoing.

The Councillor did later state “The unfounded rumours and inferences that I made on this private call were just that, unfounded,”. But one has to ask why did this Councillor feel the need to tell a private citizen shocking information, proven or not, that would at the very least lower the public’s confidence in the staff and process at the City of Hamilton?

This term of Council has started with the public learning, that in 2018, senior staff “found” a very damning report given to the city in 2013 on the concerns technical professionals had with the safety of the Red Hill Expressway.  This report apparently sat in a drawer for a few years before it was found and disclosed to Council.  The city is facing a $250 million Class Action Lawsuit over allegations of improper design and maintenance of the Expressway.  The suit draws much of it’s evidence from this report.

Soon after, we learned that City Council and Senior staff did not tell the public that, over a 4 year period, 24 billion litres of raw sewage spilled into Chedoke Creek.  The cleanup, not including potential Provincial fines, could total in the millions of dollars.

In the short term the City of Hamilton has no choice.  With the departments in question, the City must hire an independent Forensic Auditing Firm to investigate all claims.  The terms of Reference and Engagement should be wide and clearly defined and there should be no interference from City Council or staff.  Make no mistake this process will be time consuming and very expensive.

Auditor must be completely independent

As I stated in an earlier article and with what was one of my main planks in my Mayoral Campaign, the Province has to be lobbied to create a completely independent and separate Auditor General type office for Hamilton (of course for any other city over a certain population/budget expenditure amount also).  This office would not be employees of the city and do not answer to Council.  It would have legislative powers granted to it and it would investigate and report yearly on all matters found in it’s yearly audits. 

Given the dollar amounts, it is likely that chances of the above matters being found out in the years they occurred would be quite high.

This office would not only give confidence and comfort to the public but to the hard working and honest city staff also.  There would be a clear avenue for staff to discuss potential serious problems/issues with no fear of retribution. 

If there is one good thing to come out of the release of the councilor’s telephone conversation on social media, it is that for the first time the public learned of a million-dollar snafu that otherwise would have gone undetected.

The confidence in City Governance has been taking hit after hit to it’s credibility.  Once it is gone, it will take a very long time to gain back.

The Public needs assurance that Council and city staff are performing to their best of their abilities in an honest and transparent fashion, for the benefit of the citizens of this great city.

We deserve no less.

Article by Vito Sgro

Vito Sgro is a professional accountant and community volunteer living in Hamilton.  In 2018 he was a candidate for Mayor of Hamilton

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  • Mr Sgro seems to think that an auditor general is going to solve the inherent problems that exist in the city.

    While an auditor will provide financial details, it does not change the culture.

    In my personal journey, I have been trying to expose the incompetence of one particular individual.

    I contacted my councillor at the time who referred the issue I brought forward to a particular individual. I gave my personal view and the response I received was indicative of ongoing problems that go unsolved.

    The response I received was, you dont respect me! Instead of sending appropriate assistance, this is the brilliance I received.

    This boob is under the impression that respect is a given by their title not that they have earned my respect by their actions to ease the suffering of individuals. They did nothing except to bounce around city hall as a court jester stepping g on the little people.

    My trade was accounting and I did compile working paper files which were signed off by people like Mr Sgro. Doing the grunt work has given me insight and knowledge and I had to be thorough in my job.

    Sorry Mr Sgro, it goes deeper!

    • Excellent comments Ms. Hruschka!

      The Auditor General’s roles in both the Province and the Federal Government are much more diverse in function than a CPA firm performing standard Assurance Engagements.

      Most of the Reports I’ve read and have been a part of mainly consisted of Value-For-Money Audits. Programs were examined for things like overall effectiveness, goal completion and internal control effectiveness.

      These yearly audits would show if money was being authorized and spent in the proper manner. Were the objectives of programs being met, were the people who were supposed to be served with these programs actually benefit from these programs and if they didn’t, why?

      Imagine Public Works, City Housing, The Police Services , the HSR, to name a few, being reviewed for overall effectiveness and not just from a financial viewpoint.

      An audit of Public Works, specific to outside Consultant’s reports, might have reported to the public that the Red Hill Report was not presented to Council. An audit of completed Maintenance Schedules might have asked why the gate at the tank that caused the spill was not properly reviewed.

      I agree with you that a simple financial audit will not solve the deeper problems but an independent body looking beyond just financial considerations will create a greater transperancy and hopefully a greater confidence in City Governance.

      Respectfully,

  • This issue was covered widely by local press in August of 2019, and anyone paying attention would have been aware.
    There was no revelation in Clarks comments.

    We need a Mayor with some integrity.
    Period.

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