Surrey Supports Openness, Transparency and Accountability
September 12, 2011
Surrey – Surrey City Council has officially given its support in principle to the provincial government’s proposal of establishing a Municipal Auditor General (MAG) Office. Council approved a report and resolution at tonight’s meeting that will be forwarded to the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development and the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
The resolution supports the proposal, subject to the following:
- This provincial initiative not result in the duplication of services or responsibilities of the Office of the Inspector of Municipalities, the B.C. Ombudsperson, and/or the internal audit functions of municipalities
- Municipalities not bear any of the costs associated with this provincial initiative. In the 2010/2011 fiscal year, the Auditor General of B.C. completed 71 audits, which cost $15.4 million and utilized 112 full-time staff members
- The objectives for the MAG Office be clearly defined by the Province
- The MAG Office be structured to work with the internal audit division of a municipality (if applicable)
- This initiative not result in the Province limiting local government’s ability to establish or adjust property tax rates
- The MAG Office will follow clear guidelines and protocols that have been established with input from municipalities
“The City of Surrey supports openness, transparency and accountability by all levels of government. We need to ensure that we’re producing tangible benefits and value for taxpayers,” says Mayor Dianne Watts.
“The City of Surrey has the lowest municipal taxes and second-lowest business taxes in Metro Vancouver, and compared to other Canadian cities, our residents are paying among the lowest taxes in the country. We must continue to ensure those tax dollars are being used efficiently and effectively,” says Watts. She adds that for 14 consecutive years, the City has won the Canadian Award for Financial Reporting for excellence in governmental accounting and financial reporting.
“A municipal auditor general has the ability to provide increased assurance that taxpayers are getting value for their money and allow for best practices to be shared across the province,” says Watts. “But, we need to ensure that if this position is established, it doesn’t become too costly and bureaucratic, which would defeat the intended purpose.”
She adds that local governments differ from the provincial and federal governments because, by law, municipalities cannot budget for annual deficits. The provincial government’s budget deficit is forecast at $2.8 billion in 2011-12, and the federal government’s budget deficit is forecast at $36.2 billion in 2010–11.
The City of Surrey has introduced many innovative efficiencies that have helped to keep expenditures in check, as evidenced by its low tax rates. The City has a relatively sophisticated expenditure control system and governance in place. For example, there is an Internal Audit Division that conducts both regular and random audits of the City’s operations to ensure that internal controls are effective, and that provides advice on possible performance improvements.
For more information on the City of Surrey’s Finance and Technology department, please visit: http://www.surrey.ca/city-government/3067.aspx
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Senior Communications Specialist
Office of the Mayor