Last week, the Windsor Star after nearly a month and a half printed a Letter to the Editor from the self-described, “evil” Toronto lawyer, Andrew Roman stating his legal opinion about Windsor’s Auditor General. The first part of the letter was addressed in this column.
This is the second column dealing with the second half of his letter.
5. If an auditor general could assign whatever work he wanted to himself, that would make him unaccountable
Except other municipalities have decided to do just that. Ottawa and Sudbury, for example, only permit councillors to add to a work plan, leaving the authority to decide what gets audited up to the Auditor General. However, auditor generals are accountable – whether it be through a simple majority vote of councillors as in Windsor, or a super-majority vote of 2/3 of council as is the case in Ottawa.
In addition Auditor General’s can be subject to a peer review – as councillors decided in Sudbury:
The Institute of Internal Auditors will conduct a quality assurance review of the auditor general’s work to date, and it is intended to help audit organizations in their efforts to meet standards set out by the IIA and the Association of Local Government Auditors in following Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS).
For a small two-person audit shop, like that of the auditor general’s office in Sudbury, quality assurance reviews should be done every three years, according to GAGAS. For larger audit shops, reviews are usually done on a five-year cycle (Aaron Pickard, Sudbury Northern Life, January 18, 2012).
Thus, an Auditor General can be held to account should council decide to do so.
6. First, regular outside auditors audit every electric utility in the province. Second, there is also the highly specialized, ongoing, in-depth regulatory scrutiny provided by the Ontario Energy Board (OEB).
Yes, the Ontario Energy Board regulates electricity utilities across the province. Yes, as is the case with the City of Windsor, “outside” auditors audit every electric utility. No one is disputing this.
But are they value for money audits?
The Ontario Energy Board says no, “It’s not our mandate, it’s not what we do,” said Sylvia Kovesfalvi, acting manager of communications for the province’s energy board” (Dave Battagello, Windsor Star, March 9, 2012).
As Ontario’s Auditor general writes, “In areas in which it has jurisdiction, the Board [OEB] sets rates using a quasi-judicial process that requires utilities and other regulated entities, such as OPG and Hydro One, to justify any proposed rate changes at a public hearing. Many small and mid-sized utilities say the cost of this process—$100,000 to $250,000 per application…every 4 years.”
Roman asks, “How many multimillion dollar audits of Enwin do the taxpayers and electricity ratepayers of Windsor want to pay for? How much would the taxpayers of Windsor benefit from the auditor general trying, with his very limited resources, to do yet another financial review of Enwin?”
Again, no multi-million dollar audits of Enwin Utilities would be conducted, but only the “value for money” audits the OEB says they don’t do.
7. There is no way a municipal auditor general could do what the OEB does. Also, unlike the auditor general, who the Act requires to do all his work in secret, everything the OEB does is transparent
No one is suggesting an Auditor General would or should. The function of a municipal auditor general is not to replace the Ontario Energy Board, as Roman infers. The AG reports to city council his/her findings in a report that municipalities make public – including Windsor. The WFCU review, 400 Building Audit, Fleet Audit, and the Windsor Utilities Commission audit reports were all made public and received extensive media attention.
8. That is a matter for council to decide, not the auditor general.
In the initial amendment to the 2001 Municipal Act, there was no reference to the Auditor General being independent. The act was amended in 2009 to ensure the Auditor General acted in an “independent manner” (2009, c. 33, Sched. 21, s. 6 (11)) and thus indicates the spirit and intent of the legislation.
Mr. Roman’s comments are alarming considering what is taking place elsewhere. Do they mean city council has decided to control the AGO as much as possible rather than granting wide latitude to the office?
If that is indeed the case, why bother having an Auditor General if the intent is to micromanage every aspect of the office?