Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Friday, April 25, 2008

More On The 400 Building Audit

It may be spring but there is a real chill in the air at City Hall these days with a number of Councillors wearing heavy sweaters, especially when audits are discussed.

Here is the note sent out by the Chair of the Audit Committee to explain what is going on. Note the key comment that I have put in bold and you will now understand former auditor Mike Dunbar's comment in the Star much better:

  • "Members of City Council

    At its last meeting the Audit Committee requested Administration provide their final comments to the Lead Internal Auditor with respect to the 400 Building Audit Report as part of the usual audit protocols.

    Administration provided information last week to the Lead Internal Auditor and she immediately met with Administration. The new information provided is material and significant in nature. The City Auditors Office now needs to review and analyze this information before proceeding with the release of a final report. The Report tabled at the December 2007 Audit Committee in-camera meeting is likely to change in content considerably after the City Auditors Office completes it work plan.

    As a result of this finding the Audit Committee made a decision at its meeting today to defer issuing the 400 Report at this time due to the new information received from Administration by the City Auditors Office last week. There is a significant amount of audit work required to ensure the 400 Building Audit Report can be finalized. In order for the Report to be issued the City Auditors Office needs to follow normal/usual auditing protocol to ensure what is presented in the Report can be supported by fact.

    The Committee has not received or reviewed the new information and will not receive it until it is in Report form. This practice is usual auditing protocol.

    The City Auditors Office will prepare a report for the May meeting outlining the work plan and expected delivery dates.

    Maxwell Zalev

    Audit Committee"

Interestingly, Zalev failed to mention in his note that the CAO had the initial report in his hands in December, 2006 and the Audit Committee had it in their hands in April 2007 AND NOTHING HAPPENED FOR A YEAR! I do not understand his reluctance to comment on this fact or to explain the delay. This to me is a very serious concern.

Dunbar's comment was:

  • "The complete report tells the whole story -- including questions we could not get answers to -- and the public deserves to see that."
I am surprised that no one asked the question why answers were not provided in a timely fashion nor why the Chair did not provide the reason. The CAO gave the "staff changes" defence to help explain the delay but why didn't he say this before. That was part of the defence used in Fleet Operations audit too in case you forgot:
  • "With respect to the statement that "the tone at the top" is not strong, I certainly concur, in that since the corporate restructuring in 2003, there have been 3 Chief Administrative Officers, 5 General Managers of Public Works, 2 Executive Directors, 3 Fleet Managers, and vacancies at the supervisory level. It is only since August 2007, that the Division has finally had a full management complement."
Previously though Councillor Marra had said:
  • "We don't have a good explanation for the delay.

    There is no good excuse, no good response to why this has been delayed, but the reality is it has been. I think a lot of people are anxious to see the results of this."
I would ask a Councillor on the Audit Committee as an elected representative of the people to answer some questions but they have been told not to speak. Anyway, I probably could not understand them with their teeth chattering from the chill.

Obviously now, we will never see the questions not answered and we will never know if Administration acted properly or not since as Mr. Zalev said:
  • "The Report tabled at the December 2007 Audit Committee in-camera meeting is likely to change in content considerably after the City Auditors Office completes it work plan."
The earlier report with the dirty linen in it that Mr. Dunbar wants us to see will never see the light of day. It will be superseded by the new one UNLESS Ms. Berry points out specifically where the problems were. I wonder if she would do that.

What the key issue is becoming is not what is in the report but what I see as the attitude of an Administration that believes that it is not subject to review unless they so allow it. Rememeber some of the observations I made with Fleet Operations:
  1. "The counter-offensive is interesting however:

    "Mike Palanacki, executive director of operations, maintained Wednesday there remains no evidence of fraud involving the city's fuel pumps.

    He said the department had more documentation that was never considered regarding the city's fuel than was indicated in the audit report.

    "I do have issues in the way the audit was done and the report," Palanacki said."

    DUH, Mike, if you had all of this information, and you had the opportunity to give it to the audit group, why didn't you do so. An incorrect report would not have been issued and we would have had no headlines. Did Mike think so little of the audit group of the City that he felt that he could ignore them? Sure he had issues about the audit, so much so that he did a whole two-page letter as I referred to above."

  2. "It is pretty clear that the City Audit department is treated as a joke, especially since it took two years for them to complete their investigation on one department covering a three-year period:

    "Fleet management initially restricted the information it supplied to the auditor," the report said. "In all stages we were required to request information multiple times before obtaining adequate documentation from fleet management."

    And even then, if what is said by Mr. Palanacki is true, they did not get complete information.

  3. I'm sure that by now you would have expected that I would of taken a shot at the Mayor and his lack of management skills. Why should I, it's obvious. He is such an easy target.

    As the only full-time Member of Council and the chief executive officer of the municipality, it is his responsibility and duty to ensure that the organization is managed properly.

Go back a bit in time now when the 400 audit issue first burst out. There was a very strong email written by the CAO that was leaked to the media:

  • "Alan Halberstadt joined his council counterpart Bill Marra Thursday to say he was unhappy with an internal e-mail issued by CAO John Skorobohacz...

    He said administration was being unfairly blamed by the councillors."

In that email as well, the CAO tossed in a comment about the RFP for the Integrity Commissioner as "a separate but related matter." I did not understand at the time why it was put in since it seemed so out of place. I must admit though it seemed pretty scary to me.

I thought about that email again today. I suspect that with a City Code of Conduct in place and an Integrity Commissioner around, a Councillor would have to be pretty brave to dare open his/her mouth against a staff member since it might violate the Code and could lead to significant penalties.

The Facilities group at City Hall better check if the heating and air conditioning systems are working properly at City Hall. I would hate for our elected officials to catch a bad cold.

In case anyone is wondering, Dev Tyagi was the lead person who has been gathering up Management comments for the last 1 1/2 months I was told.