COMMENT: The AGLG report. Now what?
The sentence in the 60-page AGLG report on the City of Rossland to which citizens should pay particular attention to is the second sentence in section 3.1.18 on page 8:
“Council did not balance its almost full delegation of procurement decision-making to the chief administrative officer with a requirement for meaningful, timely and periodic reporting back to Council on the results of procurement processes, the outcomes of capital projects and instances when City policies were not followed.”
In other words, Council delegated all the decision-making powers to the CAO which the Community Charter allows a council to delegate. Council delegated these powers without requiring the CAO to be accountable to Council for the manner in which the delegated powers were used, or for the consequences arising from the use of these powers.
This means that whatever processes or policies Council has in place, or thinks it has in place, are of no use because, without “a requirement for meaningful, timely and periodic reporting back to Council,” how can Council know whether its policies and processes are being applied as it had intended? How does Council know whether its policies and process are being applied at all? How does Council know whether its policies and processes serve the purpose for which they were intended in the first place? In other words, without the means to monitor and evaluate their performance, why bother with processes and policies at all?
The AGLG audit was limited to a couple of major capital projects. What Rossland citizens need to realize is that the effect of the condition that led to “conflicts of interest, shortcuts, informal arrangements or other actions inconsistent with city policies” (art. 3.1.16), and to a “lack of management controls and monitoring of procurement activities by City staff” (art. 3.1.17) was not limited to the capital projects reviewed by the AGLG, they affect all municipal operations, from personnel to planning to public works – everything.
The problem Council created for itself with its now infamous Delegation Bylaw will not be resolved by simply repealing it. This Delegation Bylaw has spawned a governance philosophy in the City of Rossland, a management culture, which reduced the role of Council to that of an advisory committee to the Executive. Council members may take this to be an exaggeration, but when Council adopts resolutions on the advice of management, and does so without “meaningful, timely and periodic reporting back to Council on the results of … processes … and … policies,” are such resolutions not de facto reduced to an advisory status?
If Council does proceed to repeal the Delegation Bylaw, it will have taken a first step, an introductory step only, on the road towards the restoration of a management culture that respects Council as “an order of government … that is democratically elected autonomous, responsible and accountable, is established … by the will of the residents … and provides for the municipal purposes of [the community]” (Community Charter, section 1). That road will be a long and difficult one; it is far easier to squander responsibility and to abandon accountability than it is to restore these qualities.
Andre Carrel is a retired City Administrator, journalist, author, and full-time grandpal.