Auditor General Brian Bigger confirmed this week he has hired a replacement for the only other auditor in his department, Carolyn Jodouin, whose last day was Jan. 4.
The new auditor will start work March 11. Bigger said he will formally introduce her at the next audit committee meeting March 19.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do at this point,” Bigger said. “We’re going to have to get ramped up again.”
Work on completing audits effectively halted while he went through the two-month process of finding a replacement, which was made more difficult because all Bigger could offer was a one-year contract, similar to his own.
He’s already used up almost all of his vacation and sick time, which means he and the new auditor will be working pretty much non-stop for the rest of his term.
“At this point and time, my major focus was on getting somebody hired … so it’s been pretty quiet and pretty slow up her at the audit office,” Bigger said.
“Basically, the first year the new auditor works at the city, she’s not going to get many days off at all.
“It’s the most productive way of running this out. That’s pretty much where we’re at right now.”
Currently, he’s working on the audit of the city’s transit and community arenas advertising contracts, as well as an audit of the municipal waste collection contract.
“We’ll be wrapping those up as quickly as we can, but they’re not going to be ready for the next audit committee.”
Once complete, Bigger said the audits have to go through a fairly extensive review in which city managers have an opportunity to respond, which adds about a month to the report being released.
“The process to get a report to the audit committee now is fairly extended,” he said. “We’ve got to go through various stages of management responses and feedback … and that’s a normal part of the audit process.”
In a December 2012 interview, Bigger confirmed his contract had been reduced to a one-year term from three. He said that uncertainty played a role in Jodouin’s departure, and would make finding a replacement more difficult.
The reduction in his contract led to speculation that city council was planning to fire Bigger, whose work received top marks in 2012 from the Institute of Internal Auditors, an independent audit review firm.
While city councillors are awaiting a staff report on options for making the auditor’s office permanent, only Mayor Marianne Matichuk and Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli have come out strongly in favour of retaining Bigger in the job.
Dan Melanson, president of the Greater Sudbury Taxpayers Federation, said city councillors would face a ferocious backlash from the public if they get rid of Bigger.
“If they try to get rid of him now, especially in the aftermath of the ombudsman fiasco, it would not be very pleasant for them,” Melanson said, on the phone from Las Vegas.
In a surprise move last month, councillors voted to fire Ontario Ombudsman André Marin as their closed-door meeting investigator. Marin and councillors had an acrimonious relationship, leading them to replace him with Amberly Gavel, a London, Ont., firm retained by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario to conduct closed-door investigations.
The move outraged many in the community, and in response, the GSTA launched a petition campaign calling on council to reverse the decision. The campaign failed – Marin was formally fired at a dramatic Feb. 26 city council meeting that was packed with residents upset with the decision.
Under the Municipal Act, council can’t revisit the issue until 2014, which is also an election year.
However, the GSTA has collected more than 7,000 signatures and will be gathering more right up until the next meeting March 19.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to get the public’s input and we thought it was important the politicians understand the degree to which the public is upset with the manner in which they quickly passed this bylaw,” Melanson said, when asked why they were still collecting signatures.
“We know we can’t do anything with it. But we think it’s important the politicians understand that it’s not just 20 bloggers or 200 people who turned out at council chambers. We want them to understand that a big portion of the 40,000 who actually voted in the last municipal election are upset about this.”
If they vote to get rid of the auditor, Melanson said city council can expect a backlash as big or bigger from the public.
“The underlying message to council is that the same people who are signing the petition in favour of the ombudsman feel the same way about the auditor general,” he said.