Local Government Perspectives on AGLG Operations

A new report prepared by the Union of BC Municipalities examines the impact of the operations of the Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) on audited communities. 

The report is based on a survey of local government staff that participated in audits with the AGLG. The Executive of UBCM directed staff to undertake the survey in April of this year to complement an independent review of AGLG operations by Mr. Chris Trumpy. No local governments were interviewed as part of the independent review.

“The Executive was pleased to see an independent review of AGLG operations get underway,” said UBCM president Sav Dhaliwal. “Our concern was that by not requiring the reviewer to interview communities that had been audited, the Province was missing an opportunity to hear from those who deal directly with the office.”

The survey data and comments provided by local governments show how a lack of understanding of local government operations combined with high turnover among staff contributed to inefficiency in the AGLG office. 

The report includes a set of practical recommendations aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the AGLG:

Recommendations for the Audit Council and AGLG

- Develop and implement a basic course of study in local government operations for all AGLG audit staff and contractors to be completed in advance of undertaking audits.
- Correct the problem of high turnover on audit teams by a) scaling Annual Service Plans to the capacity of staffing available; and b) reducing the reliance on external contractors.
- Meet with UBCM to discuss the findings of this report along with the recommendations from the Audit Council’s review.

Recommendations for the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development

- Prior to undertaking legislative or administrative amendments to the AGLG, consider and act on the findings within this report in an effort to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the office of the Auditor General.
- Consult with local government with regard to alternative governance and administrative models for the AGLG.
- Commit to undertaking an independent review of the office of the AGLG within two years of the next appointment of AGLG and make this review available to the public.

“I am looking forward to my first meeting as minister with the executive of UBCM and hearing more about the recommendations contained in this report,” said Peter Fassbender, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and Minister Responsible for TransLink. “The contextual thinking behind the recommendations will benefit government as it considers changes to support the functioning capacity of this statutory office. The goal remains the same: that local governments, as the Province does, provide taxpayers with affordable, effective and accountable services that meet their communities’ current and future needs.”

Prior to undertaking the survey, UBCM met with the Acting Auditor General for Local Government, Mr. Arn van Iersel, who made suggestions for the survey design that UBCM was pleased to adopt. 

“I would like to thank the local governments who completed the survey and provided comments on how we can improve,” said van Iersel. “I have initiated a number of actions including reducing our reliance on contractors, setting realistic targets for audit production, balancing audits with Perspective Series booklets to assist local governments, and furthering the education of our professional staff. Together with the Audit Council I would be pleased to meet with UBCM to discuss the recommendations for our office and how they should best be addressed.”

Mr. van Iersel has described the challenges and opportunities facing the office in the current Service Plan for the AGLG.

UBCM will monitor the value of AGLG reporting for local governments over the period of the next Service Plan and share its findings with the membership.

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