POLITICS

B.C.'s auditor for local government dismissed amid controversy

03/23/2015 01:02 EDT | Updated 05/23/2015 05:59 EDT
VICTORIA - British Columbia's embattled auditor general for local government has been fired just days after she complained about a possible bias by the man appointed to investigate her work.

But Basia Ruta isn't going without a fight. Hours after she was removed from her office Monday, Ruta announced she would be asking a judge to review the decision.

"The manner of removing me from office occurred without adherence to basic principles of procedural fairness," she said in the statement distributed by her lawyer.

Earlier in the day, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes said Ruta's complaint last week prompted her to act, recommending to the lieutenant-governor that her appointment be rescinded.

"The auditor general for local government's obstruction of an intended review of her office has created an intolerable situation that compounds the unstable work environment and lack of performance from the office," Oakes said in a news release.

Oakes said two weeks ago she hoped the review would allow the independent office to move forward and succeed.

Instead, Oakes said removing Ruta was necessary to ensure the office functions properly.

Ruta's office has been under the microscope for weeks after the Opposition New Democrats released a workplace review that outlined an inefficient and unhappy workplace. Since the office was created in April 2012, just two audits have been completed.

Last Thursday, Ruta challenged the appointment of former deputy minister Chris Trumpy to conduct an independent review, saying the legislation governing her office maintains that any review must be done by a "qualified and truly independent person."

Ruta said that Trumpy's work with the former Liberal government gave rise to the perception of bias.

Her statement Monday was more direct.

"Neither the minister nor the audit council chose to work collaboratively in a manner that preserved the independence of the office or in an manner than complied with the act.

"There is, quite simply, no power in the legislation to allow the audit council to appoint a third party to conduct a review."

The council, a group made up of five experts in a variety of fields, was put in place to ensure the effectiveness of the auditor.

Selina Robinson, Opposition NDP critic for local government, said Monday the government should have moved far sooner to scrutinize Basia's office.

She said the local auditor has spent $5.2 million and has very little to show.

Robinson said the post should be taken over by B.C.'s auditor general, Carol Bellringer.

"How much more is this government going to spend," Robinson asked.

Ruta's office, which was created to help city and municipal governments improve their operations, has released two audits and was working on about 18 others before she was removed.

Oakes said that the audit council will recommend a qualified person be appointed in an acting position until a replacement can be found.