City Council to Debate Auditor General Once Again

The question of whether or not Windsor should have an independent auditor general is set to hit the council table once again.

Councillor Jim Morrison is calling for a report from administration outlining the pros and cons as well as any additional costs.

The Ward 10 councillor was elected to his first term in October and says the absence of an AG was the most common concern he heard from residents while on the campaign trail.

"I ran in 2014 and I supported an auditor general. I ran again and I supported it. Transparency and accountability was one of my most important platforms that I put forward and the auditor general was a big part of that. I've seen where it wasn't followed through in the past and I don't think that's right."

Mayor Drew Dilkens says he knew the debate would come before council again.

"During the election there were many councillors who were in favour of an auditor general. I haven't seen the need for anything to change, but there's obviously an appetite on city council by many city councillors to have the discussion and maybe even to move in that direction. We'll just see what happens, but at the end of the day I'm going to try and focus them on what's best for the residents and making sure that residents of the community are getting value for money."

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Windsor city administration at a council meeting on December 17, 2018 (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

The city is currently in year four of a five year contract with auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers which costs taxpayers $300,000 annually.

Morrison believes there may be a more efficient way to do business.

"A lot of people talk about the cost savings and that's not the only part. There is other things that are not as quantifiable, but might be good for the city's operations. There's a whole list of things that an auditor general can do. It could be cost reductions, lost avoidance, increased revenues."

Dilkens says one person can't do the work PwC can offer.

"There's no one person that has the breadth and depth of knowledge like PwC offers. Some may want a separate auditor general's office with all of the infrastructure and staff. Some may say, "We're happy with PricewaterhouseCoopers. We like what they can do, but we want someone who holds the AG title." That would be similar to the model that we had in the city many years ago."

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Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens at a council meeting on December 17, 2018 (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

Dilkens adds an auditor general doesn't have the power some may think.

"Prior to the election, with what some folks were putting out in the community about an auditor general, there is clearly a very strong misunderstanding of the powers of an auditor general. Having the report come back to city council will actually provide clarity on that. Hopefully we can remove the politics from the discussions and really get down to how do you provide value for money for the residents."

Morrison says he'd like to see a number of different models considered.

"We can keep the status quo, we could go to a full blown auditor general office or we can look at a hybrid where we could still use an outfit like PricewaterhouseCoopers to do some of the investigative work under the direction of the auditor general. That's the information I want to hear about and we can have a good discussion around the council table."

Morrison is hoping the report comes back within the next couple of months so council can debate the issue.

Former Windsor AG Todd Langlois was let go in 2012 after council would not agree to renew his contract.

Just four of 444 municipalities in Ontario have an auditor general's office — Toronto, Ottawa, Sudbury and Markham with annual costs ranging between $6.4-million and $380,000