POLITICS

Municipal government watchdog snarls at review body examining her work

03/19/2015 03:41 EDT | Updated 05/19/2015 05:59 EDT
VICTORIA - Growing pains at British Columbia's two-year-old auditor general of local government office became more public Thursday amid allegations of political interference and legal challenges.

The municipal government watchdog has been under fire for weeks since the Opposition New Democrats leaked a workplace review that outlined an inefficient and unhappy workplace. Almost 80 per cent of those who answered a confidential survey viewed management negatively and were concerned about wasted time and work.

The office was created by the B.C. government in 2013 to ensure municipalities use tax dollars wisely, but has only produced three audits, including an audit for Delta and a second audit for Rossland issued on Thursday.

NDP local government critic Selina Robinson said the office was among Premier Christy Clark's election promises, but its implementation has been flawed.

"It's like no one has been monitoring this," she said. "No one has been paying attention. It's a gong show over there."

Local government auditor general Basia Ruta said her office, the first of its kind in Canada, had challenges getting off the ground, but the release of the Delta and Rossland reviews has it well-prepared to release further audits.

Ruta reacted strongly to the appointment of former deputy minister Chris Trumpy to conduct an independent review of her office.

The five-member Audit Council, appointed to review and monitor Ruta's office, called in Trumpy earlier this week.

"I'm all for reviews," said Ruta. "I just want to make sure that it's done in a way that it's legit and I can tell others when I go and audit them and say, 'Are you within the law? I'm within the law.'"

She said the current legislation governing her office maintains reviews "must be done by a qualified and truly independent person."

In an interview, Ruta said she has no concerns with Trumpy as a person, but his previous work as a deputy minister and current work with former Liberal politicians may give rise to perceptions of bias.

"Given Mr. Trumpy's background and involvement with public and government relations, we are of the view that the appearance of objectivity required to conduct a proper evaluation of the office is undermined," said a letter from Ruta's lawyers to the Audit Council.

Audit Council chairman Anthony Ariganello issued a statement saying the council can appoint Trumpy.

"The Audit Council is acting within its authority and has selected an independent and impartial individual to conduct the review," said the statement. "Chris Trumpy is a long-time public servant with a reputation for integrity. Mr. Trumpy is completely free from bias and outside political interference."

Ariganello's statement said the council "will refrain from further debates with the AGLG in a public forum."

Ruta said she would rather have B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer conduct a review of her office.