Auditor General Brian Bigger is raring to keep moving with his plans for 2012, weeks after councillors voted to renew his contract with the city.
“Obviously, I was happy my contract was renewed,” Bigger said July 5. “My focus is not changed. I’m staying on track, based on the 2012 Audit Work Plan, which was approved by council Jan. 17.”
While leaving comments on his new contract to Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume, who chairs the audit committee, Bigger said he’s glad to be back for another term.
“To me, I think it shows (I) have the support of the audit committee,” he said. “And I’m looking forward to moving forward with the plan that we had. No changes there. And that’s good news.”
While no one is saying for how how long Bigger’s contract has been renewed, the original bylaw creating the auditor’s office, passed in 2009, cited a first-term contract of three and a half years, with an “option of renewal for an additional three years.”
In an interview late last month, Berthiaume confirmed the renewal, but declined to say for how long.
“It’s a private matter between him and city council,” Berthiaume said June 29. “But we have renewed his contract.”
Under provincial rules, councillors are allowed to hold closed-door meetings when matters involving a specific employee are being discussed. Such was the case with Bigger’s new contract, Berthiaume said.
The next step in the 2012 Audit Work Plan is a review entitled “Impact of Changes To Road Design (Asphalt Grindings and Road Crossfall).”
“We’ll probably have that for August,” Bigger said. “We’re just missing, by about a week or so, getting our report onto the July agenda. So it will end up on the August agenda.”
The asphalt review will look at ways to save money when the city repairs roads. Among items under review will be the specifications when road contracts are tendered, and ways to ensure the city’s asphalt assets are properly accounted for.
The next two audits, which Bigger aims to complete in time for the fall budget process, will focus on user fees and a review of corporate grants, donations and contributions.
“One thing that we noticed, according to city policy, user fees are increased by about three per cent a year,” Bigger said. “We want to take a look at what full program costs would be.”
His office will look at the actual costs of the programs being partially funded by user fees and look for gaps or overlooked areas and see whether, for example, the costs of these programs are rising faster than the user fees increases.
“Based on where we are now, I’m hopeful we’ll have a report in September, along with the budget process,” he said. “We’re pretty much on schedule … We’ll continue to move along as we have in the past. And as we move along, I’ll continue to look for new areas to add to (the work plan) for 2013.”
Since becoming the city’s auditor in 2009, Bigger has repeatedly made headlines. He clashed with some city councillors during his audit of Sudbury Transit last year, which uncovered, among other issues, missing revenue.
Bigger’s audit discovered the company contracted to sell transit tickets on behalf of the city owed more than $860,000. The company was in arrears for years, but the contract with the city was renewed anyway, the auditor learned, and at one point, exceeds $1 million. The matter is the subject of a criminal investigation by the OPP, acting on a request from Greater Sudbury Police. The auditor clashed with the city’s solicitor when Bigger asked to see documents related to the Transit issue.
The city’s lawyer argued that they were off limits because of solicitor-client privilege, prompting Bigger to bring in an outside lawyer to offer a legal opinion. He eventually gained access to all the documents, but not before spending $20,000 on the outside legal advice, and being accused of overstepping his bounds by some members of council.
By his own estimates, his office has identified $1.9 million in potential savings for the city since he began his work. And earlier this year, an audit of Bigger’s office concluded that he was doing an excellent job, earning the accounting equivalent of an ‘A,’ meaning his work is in full compliance with the best accounting practices.
Posted by Arron Pickard