Editorial: Value of a tax dollar

Premier Christy Clark is pulling some hefty political punches in the months leading up to the next provincial election on May 14, 2013.

Premier Christy Clark is pulling some hefty political punches in the months leading up to the next provincial election on May 14, 2013.

The most recent of which is the announcement to appoint Basia Ruta as B.C.’s first auditor general for local government (AGLG).

Establishing an AGLG was one of Clark’s byelection promises and the appointment is drawing wide praise from the BC Chamber of Commerce as well as support from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

Long story short, the AGLG — expect to see this acronym  thrown around a lot in provincial media  from hereonin — will conduct performance audits of local governments and make non-binding recommendations based on them.

“At every level of government we need to find new and innovative ways to make sure British Columbians are getting the best value for their money,” said Clark in a government release.

Ruta appears to be the person for the job. A chartered accountant with extensive experience working in the federal Office of the Auditor General, she has been appointed for a term of five years, with a maximum of two terms permitted.

According to a report by the Fraser Institute, local governments across the province spend a total of  nearly $10 billion annually of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. This spending is already audited, but only to the determine if the numbers are being accurately reported. Whether or not taxpayers are receving value for their money has never been examined — until now.

The AGLG’s findings will definitely be of great interest to the public at large and will most likely reveal some degree of unnecessary spending and ineffeciency as can be found at other levels of government. Back in July, an audit of the B.C. Legislature revealed its $70 million annual budget was in shambles. In April, the federal auditor general revealed that the Harper government had hidden the true cost of purchasing F-35 stealth fighter jets, a $10 billion difference that Harper dismissed as an “accounting error.”

But when Ruta turns her eyes to the Columbia Valley to ensure better value for money, it begs to question what, or whose, values will be setting the standard.

 

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