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Work sputters at city audit department

By: Darren MacDonald - Sudbury Northern Life

 | Apr 16, 2014 - 9:43 AM |
Sources say city council has been meeting behind closed doors concerning Auditor General Brian Bigger's office, which only produced one audit in 2013 and none so far in 2014. File photo.

Sources say city council has been meeting behind closed doors concerning Auditor General Brian Bigger's office, which only produced one audit in 2013 and none so far in 2014. File photo.

Council meets behind closed doors over AG's office

After dealing with a series of staffing and other issues, Greater Sudbury's audit committee has yet to meet in 2014, after holding just a handful of meetings and producing just one audit in all of 2013.

But committee chair Ron Dupuis said in a recent statement he expects the department, led by Auditor General Brian Bigger, will soon be back on track.

“Mr. Bigger and our senior auditor are working on audits,” Dupuis said. “We're expecting them to have completed audits in the next little while.”

Sources at Tom Davies Square say recent closed-door meetings at city hall were related to the audit department, which still has uncompleted audits on its workplan from 2012. Staffing issues have played a large role in the slowdown, dating back to late 2012, when the only other person in the department, a senior auditor, quit to take a position elsewhere. The auditor general went through two hiring processes since then, and a new senior auditor was hired and started work in February.

First hired in 2009, Bigger produced several, high-profile audits in the department's first years, including uncovering more than $800,000 in missing ticket money at Sudbury Transit and an award-winning review of the city's roads department that uncovered problems with the quality control and inventory of recycled asphalt.

However, Bigger has complained in the past that a lack of co-operation from staff was impeding his work, saying he was being forced to wait an unreasonable amount of time for the management responses he needed to complete his work. He also and said attracting candidates for the senior auditor position was nearly impossible because he couldn't offer anything more than a one-year contract.

However, last spring city council hired renowned internal auditor James Key to review the audit process, and he made a number of recommendations to change the relationship between staff and Bigger.

He concluded the audit process in Sudbury was “flawed” and needed to get to the point where, rather than being a confrontational event, audits were a collegial process, where city managers and the auditor general work together.

And last summer, council extended Bigger's contract for another two years, and later authorized him to offer a three-year contract to a new senior auditor.
In October 2013, Bigger hailed the new spirit of cooperation and openness on the part of city staff. He said they appeared more accepting of the process and were following the recommendations from the audits.

“I believe this is a really good news story,” Bigger said at the time. “Ninety-eight per cent of our recommendations ... have been implemented or partially implemented. That is a very good status. It shows management is committed to implementing the changes.”

He also introduced a new process for conducting audits, with specific commitments to consult departments when he is doing his work, and to specify how much time managers would have to respond to audit findings. A special committee was struck to ensure Bigger was getting co-operation from staff, and a new senior auditor was hired.

“I've taken to heart the spirit of being collegial and of working with management on these items,” Bigger said in October. “I looked at my peers, and found a process I believe is more effective … and seems to be better received by staff.”

While getting back on track has taken longer than anticipated, the audit committee is expected to meet next month. While declining to be interviewed, Bigger said he expects there will be at least one audit ready for the committee meeting in May.
Darren MacDonald

Darren MacDonald

Staff Writer


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