A report going before Winnipeg city council suggests the city no longer audit the ward expenses for local councillors or the mayor.
The report, heading to executive policy committee Tuesday morning, recommends changing the Councillors’ Ward Allowance Fund Policy to remove the requirement for a yearly audit, and discontinuing the annual audit altogether.
City auditor Bryan Mansky writes that this all began when a 2018 peer review of the city’s auditing standards stated that auditors should be independent of the business they’re auditing.
“The Audit Department is within the reporting structure of the area under audit which means there is a structural threat to our independence,” he wrote.
“The outcome is that we should no longer conduct these audits.”
Deputy auditor Micheal Giles said because the city’s auditing department reports directly to the mayor and council, it’s something of a conflict of interest to be auditing them.
“We don’t report to the chief administrative officer. We report directly to council,” said Giles. “And so that means that we are independent from anybody that the chief administrative officer supervises.”
The City of Winnipeg is the only major Canadian municipality that requires a yearly audit, according to the report, despite no requirement to do so in the City of Winnipeg Charter.
But Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie Director Todd MacKay says the city should take pride in that and says there’s no reason to discontinue the audit.
“It’s good to be the exception sometimes,” MacKay said.
“When you’re doing something really well, if you’re leading the pack, you don’t look back and say I better slow down, you think about how to keep doing well. Other cities should be looking at this and emulating it.”
Giles said the department checked and couldn’t find a single major municipality in North America that does an annual audit.
“You can find an audit every once in a while, but they generally come up because of concerns that might be brought to those city governments, attention from the public or maybe from people within their organizations.”
The deputy clerk already reviews all expenses, Mansky said, to make sure that proper documentation is in place and that the expense is in line with current city policies.
MacKay calls the current audit a good “safeguard”.
“It’s a little bit like looking at your car and thinking I’ve got an airbag in here so why am I putting my seatbelt on all the time?”
“Because it’s helpful, you never know when you’re going to need it. We need more accountability, not less.”
Having an independent third party audit councillors’ expenses would cost between $50,000 and $100,000 yearly, according to the report.
But not doing the audits at all, except when needed, would save the city money, writes Mansky.
“Currently, a considerable amount of time is required of City Clerks employees, Corporate Finance employees and Councillors’ assistants to respond to queries and provide supporting documentation for the audit.
“The above analysis strongly supports the discontinuance of the annual audit process as an appropriate business decision.”
Yearly audits have been in place since at least 2008, said Giles, but he didn’t know when the city first required them.
Global News has reached out to Mayor Brian Bowman for comment, however Bowman was in Leduc, Alta., Monday but is expected to attend EPC Tuesday.
Read the report:
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