Windsor hires independent auditor general

Windsor City Council during a regular meeting, September 23, 2019. (Photo by Mark Brown)

For the first time in 11 years, the City of Windsor has hired an independent auditor general.

Ward 10 Councillor Jim Morrison introduced a motion during Monday’s meeting and council voted unanimously in favour of bringing the internal auditor general position back to the city of Windsor. During the last election, Morrison ran on a promise to have the position reintroduced, citing the importance of transparency and accountability.

Council has not had its own independent, internal auditor general since 2012 when the past council opted to outsource the work to Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC). The issue had been brought to council for discussion multiple times, most recently in 2015 when a divided council voted against the hiring of a local auditor general.

In the motion approved on Monday, city council voted to have PWC appoint one of its partners as the auditor general. Christopher O’Connor, who has been with PWC for almost eight years, was named to the position.

“The [Municipal] Act actually allows the sitting auditor general to confer those powers on other members [of council] as they deem appropriate for any period of time,” said O’Connor. “There’s a belief, certainly from some of the people in [council chambers], that the presence of that possibility creates more likelihood that people are going to behave.”

Not everyone in council chambers was happy with council’s decision, however. Activist Howard Weeks, who spoke as a delegate in favour of bringing the auditor general position back to Windsor, said council’s decision was not the outcome he had hoped for.  He expressed concern over Windsor utilizing an auditor general who is a partner at the firm already employed by the city.

“As we go along, [I hope] that we really see if there is independence, that we really see if the gentleman that they’ve hired to do this will ask and get unfettered access to documents,” said Weeks.

O’Connor said the independence of his position is outlined in the Municipal Act, which gives him additional legislated powers that are available only to an auditor general.

Prior to the meeting, city staff submitted a report recommending, if council went ahead with a decision to hire an independent auditor general, that a partner from PWC be appointed. The report indicated that the cost to the municipality would remain under the approved annual budget of $300,000 for internal audit services.  PWC had also indicated a willingness to negotiate an amendment to it existing contract with the city, which currently expires on April 11, 2020.

“This would be the quickest path to implementation as the auditor general office could be in place immediately upon acceptance of mutually acceptable terms,” the report read.

Windsor is now one of only four municipalities in Ontario to utilize an internal auditor general. The others are Ottawa, Markham and Sudbury.

 

– With files from Mark Brown.