By Robert Frank
After going through four mayors in 14 months, scandalous corruption allegations and provincial trusteeship, municipal administration in Laval hit a new low last year, according to the city’s auditor general Michèle Galipeau.
Her 2013 annual report, which she submitted last week, didn’t pull any punches: The city needs to pull up its socks on multiple fronts.
“Only 28 per cent of the recommendations [made in the year’s audit] were addressed adequately, compared with 50 per cent in 2012 and 2011,” Galipeau said.
She also pointed to a lack of accountability at city hall.
“We frequently witnessed the city establish policies without first developing the tools needed to implement and manage them,” Galipeau observed.
The city owns lots of land and its real estate transactions are a mess, she reported.
“There’s no consistent strategic vision for real estate,” Galipeau said, highlighting a lack of coherent communication between city employees who are responsible for real estate transactions. “We also discovered some gaps in ensuring accountability.”
Outsourcing computer expertise also proved a problem.
“We noticed lapses in awarding contracts, calls for tender and adherence to contract schedules,” the auditor general indicated.
She said that the problem stemmed from a lack of cooperation between the city’s purchasing and contract managers and its computer boffins.
“The two departments sometimes interpret the city’s supply and contract management policies differently,” Galipeau said.
The city’s green policy also attracted the auditor general’s attention.
She concluded that Laval doesn’t really have a sustainable development policy, just a collection of incoherent initiatives and actions. She suggested that the city needs an “all-embracing vision” on that front.
Laval’s 3-1-1 telephone-information service also needs to improve, Galipeau said.
“The City of Laval has not fulfilled the commitment that it made in 2007 to funnel all non-emergency calls to the city to a single number: 3-1-1,” she reproached. “Indeed, some city departments continue to publish their own phone number in order to receive and handle citizens’ calls directly.
Besides sowing confusion, she said, it also makes it impossible for the city to oversee how well its citizens are served.
Finally, Galipeau suggested the city take a fresh look at its expense-account policy.
“The amount that the city pays per kilometre [for staff who have to use their own cars on municipal business] is significantly higher than other major cities, Revenue Canada or Revenue Quebec’s top rates,” she explained, “and the last time that the city reviewed whether its personal car compensation rates were reasonable for remaining non-taxable was in 2002.”
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