POLITICS

B.C. local government auditor office under review amid reports of wasted time

03/09/2015 07:21 EDT | Updated 05/09/2015 05:59 EDT
VICTORIA - Employees at the office created by the B.C. government to ensure municipalities use tax dollars wisely are concerned about the efficient use of resources in their own workplace and lack confidence in their leadership, says a leaked report.

The Opposition New Democrats released the internal government report on Monday, saying it outlines an inefficient and unhappy workplace at office of the Auditor General for Local Government.

The eight-page review, dated January 2015 and prepared by the government's Strategic Human Resources Branch, reported that almost 80 per cent of those who answered a confidential survey viewed management negatively and were concerned about wasted time and work.

"Almost all employees shared examples of preparing work based on direction to find out that the direction had shifted and the work wasn't needed," the report said.

"There was a common theme regarding a lack of scope definition or scope expansion causing inefficient use of consultant and staff resources."

Premier Christy Clark announced the creation of the office in November 2012. Its purpose was to conduct performance audits on local government and provide objective information and advice.

Basia Ruta was appointed head of the Surrey office and its 10 employees.

The report concluded that positive change is required to support a functional, engaged and high-performing work environment.

It said executive-level management needs to provide clear direction and meaningful communication, and employees must "experience a healthy and respectful atmosphere free from fear of reprisal, discrimination and harassment."

NDP Leader John Horgan said it appears the office is struggling to set priorities and has workplace morale issues, but he's also concerned about British Columbians getting value for their money.

The office has an annual budget of $2.6 million, which adds up to $5.2 million since its creation.

"Clearly the office is not functioning," said Horgan. "Clearly that's $5 million we are not going to get back, and the premier talks about finding low-hanging fruit in the education sector and about cutting and tightening our belts everywhere. I think a good place to start would be here."

Clark recently said school districts facing government budget cuts should consider trimming their bureaucracies to save money.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Coralee Oakes said a human-resources review is underway but refused to comment directly about the report's findings on morale and leadership.

"It has been identified through (human resources) that there is a review and a process that is going on," she said.

"When there is a fulsome review that has happened and I am able to report out on that, we will do so."