Independent review planned for CK municipal operations

Chatham-Kent Civic Centre. January 18, 2017. (Photo by Natalia Vega)

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent will be following its standard processes to bring in an external company to review municipal staffing levels and efficiencies.

During Monday night’s council meeting, Councillor Michael Bondy brought forward an unsuccessful motion asking that the municipality retain Grant Thornton LLP to conduct an audit and analysis of its staffing levels and its return on investment of existing departmental structures.

On its website, Grant Thornton describes itself as a “leading Canadian accounting and advisory firm providing audit, tax and advisory services to private and public organizations.”

However according to Chief Financial Officer Gord Quinton, as a result of a previous motion approved by council, a request for proposal (RFP) process is already underway to find a firm to conduct an independent service review of the Municipality of Chatham-Kent’s expenditures, efficiencies and staffing levels.

Despite this, Bondy still pushed for council to be able to bypass the RFP process and be able to choose the firm that will conduct the review, not municipal staff.

According to Bondy, he selected Grant Thornton for his motion as a result of several recommendations from local businesses. He said he believed putting out an RFP for this particular project would just be creating unnecessary red tape.

“Without an RFP they would be following their own guidelines and not parameters that are set out by staff through an RFP,” Bondy explained. “We would be allowing the firm to make decisions as to where they should be looking and where not to look for efficiencies and staffing levels rather than being restraint by directions of an RFP.”

According to Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire, 14 companies have already put in a bid for the job, including Grant Thornton.

To select Grant Thornton and not follow an RFP process, council would have needed to put forward a successful motion to bypass Chatham-Kent’s purchasing by-law.

In addition, Shropshire explained that there are other risks to the municipality if it foregoes the competitive RFP process.

“The two biggest things we could lose is if you have 14 bidders and they see us sole selecting or sole sourcing a bidder, there’s a [chance] that they may not want to bid in the future because it looks like a wasted effort,” Shropshire explained. “They’re looking for that competitive process. The second piece is if you don’t go through that competitive process, you have no guarantee or controls on the price you’re going to be paying.”

Bondy’s motion ultimately failed 15-2.

While most councillors said they supported bringing in a neutral, outside party to do the review, they said they wanted to maintain the RFP process.

“The key piece is those 14 companies…each and every one of them base their entire practice on professional standards of which one of the key ones is independence,” said Mayor Darrin Canniff. “I for one am not concerned. As long as they meet the qualifications, they are coming with an independent attitude…I’m quite comfortable we’re going to find a good company through the RFP process.”

The RFP closes on March 31 with a report expected to come back to council at the end of April. The results of the review along with recommendations will eventually be brought back to council ahead of the 2022 budget deliberation process.

Although his motion did not pass, towards the end of the meeting Bondy’s fellow councillors voted in favour of appointing him to the RFP review committee.

“My motion was not necessary [about picking] Grant Thornton,” Bondy said. “It was about council [getting to pick] a firm. So I can assure everybody that I’ll be impartial.”