VIDEO: HRM’s auditor say only half of recommendations acted onApril 18, 2018
Halifax is not meeting the standards Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd would like to see when it comes to implementing report recommendations.
Colman-Sadd presented a followup review of recommended actions related to nine reports issued between March 2014 and January 2016.
Fifty-four per cent of those issues are still outstanding to date.
“In terms of grade — I don’t want to get into a letter grade or anything like that — it’s at about half,” Colman-Sadd said after the presentation to the municipality’s audit and finance committee.
“In last month’s report, we pick 70 per cent (completion) as where we would like to see things, so clearly it isn’t where we would like to see things and that’s why we’re working to have better recommendations,” she said.
“We’re working with management to try to get agreement on those recommendations to start with, and then I was very encouraged by the committee’s reaction today in terms of that it’s unacceptable for things to not be addressed over the long term, so I think that bodes very well for the future.”
Colman-Sadd also said this is the first time her office has conducted this kind of review but they intend to do so more often and more comprehensively in the future.
Three of the reports had “minimal or no work done to address identified risks,” the review’s summary points out.
The Building Standards – Permits and Inspections report still has not led to a procedure manual, which would guide staff and promote consistency, and there are records management issues and problems with performance indicators.
The employee absence leave policy still has no analysis of leaves, and leave entitlements are not consistent across business units.
The equipment fuel program still lacks controls around the use of fuel cards and fobs and inconsistent controls at fuel locations.
There were four reports that had at least one issue addressed but still had something outstanding.
On the plus side of those, a report on expenses for the mayor, councillors, senior management and staff for 2013-14 has had two out of three identified issues addressed: updated allowable charges under expense and purchasing cards policies, and available information for analysis from the credit card provider. Still outstanding is expense policy controls. The form needs to include the location from which the travel begins and the policy needs to define when councillors can claim travel that starts from their place of residence.
The Washmill Lake Court Extension Project’s lack of project management and central responsibility and lack of appropriate approvals and oversight still have not been addressed. What has been addressed is a concern that the city could not confirm the project met appropriate construction standards. The contractor provided a certification report confirming the bridge meets standards and confirmation from the province that the bridge was inspected.
A risk management report on a fuel spill at Halifax Transit had only one resolution out of three: addressing incorrect inventory reconciliation procedures that led to the leak being undetected. The municipality has yet to fully implement corporate-wide risk management or put in place an environmental protection framework, according to the review.
And the management of HRM’s reserve funds report has resolved issues with accounting controls but has not addressed lack of compliance with legislation and an administrative order, and a lack of documentation and transparency for reserve funding levels and planned usage.
Two reports resulted in full resolutions to identified issues.
The administration of training expenditures report resulted in fixes for three deficiencies: a lack of training strategy to develop courses; confusion around a training program; and issues with the tuition reimbursement policy.
A report on Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s non-emergency fleet vehicle allocation had all four deficiencies addressed: lack of an allocation policy; lack of controls; insufficient information to assign vehicles; and HRM fleet guidelines not being followed.
Only three councillors were present. Russell Walker, representing Halifax-Bedford Basin West, chaired the meeting and Steve Adams (Spryfield-Sambro Loop-Prospect Road) and Lower Sackville Coun. Steve Craig were in attendance.
After the meeting, Adams said the auditor general’s office is doing its job.
“They don’t have the ability to offer solutions because then they’d lose that independence and the fact that they’re arm’s-length,” Adams said. “So I understand that and appreciate that but when there are issues that were identified three and four years ago that have not been actioned … these should have been fixed within one year, at least an explanation within one year, and moving forward remedies after they were identified. Four years are not acceptable.
“We need answers. It’s as simple as that. We don’t have to necessarily like the answers but if we get an answer then we can do something about it. But until that time, nothing can be fixed.”