City hall is considering an internal auditor position to ensure that council priorities are met with financial prudence and that every dime of the taxpayers’ money is spent efficiently and with purpose.
Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said an internal auditor would help build trust between taxpayers and the elected officials who spend the money, and hold council more accountable for its decisions.
“I totally support an internal auditor and it is something we should definitely look at,” said Ruttan. “An auditor would be somewhat independent of city staff and could make his or her own assessment of what the city is doing in regards to diligence, while unbiasedly giving opinions back to elected personnel about how they see the city progressing.
“Some people still question everything we do, but we are trying, in my opinion, to be very open and very transparent in how we spend taxpayer money.”
An internal auditor was recommended as a higher service level in the 2012-2016 financial plan. The position is common in other Canadian municipalities.
“An internal auditor is a way to build trust with the community,” said Al Kenning, city manager. “There is growing concern as to how the city spends $160 million annually and this position can address those concerns.”
An internal auditor would report directly to top levels of city staff and city council.
Kenning noted that the province has also created a municipal auditor position to oversee municipal spending, but said the positions wouldn’t overlap.
The provincial auditor is more concerned with municipalities following Local Government Act regulations and wouldn’t likely have the time to focus on any single municipality, while an internal auditor would have intimate access to Nanaimo’s accounts.
“They’re not necessarily the same mandate,” said Kenning.
It is estimated the position would cost as much as $100,000 and would be a union-exempt position.
Coun. Jim Kipp said considering the amount of money council is responsible for and increasingly complicated financial transactions, it makes sense to have another pair of eyes on the books.
“As a councillor, I’ve spent about $750 million,” said Kipp.
Ruttan said if the position is approved by council, the city will move quickly to fill the position.
“We’re trying to move along as quickly as we can,” he said. “It’s certainly on the radar to get it going and get that position activated as early as we can and we see this as an important step. It should be seen by the public as our interest in making sure we are accountable for what happens.”