Tofino loves its visitors but nobody ever rolls out the red carpet for the taxman.
The provincial government’s Auditor General for Local Government Gordon Ruth is coming to town in November to conduct a performance audit of Tofino’s human resource practices, according to a letter sent to Tofino’s district office by the AGLG office.
The audit will investigate how municipal employee performance is measured and look for ways to improve the district’s workforce planning, recruitment strategies and succession plans.
“This audit will not assess the dollar value of staff compensation levels or the collective bargaining process,” the letter states. “As well, the audit will not assess local government policy decisions or objectives.”
Tofino’s municipal council reviewed this letter during Sept. 13’s regular meeting and, while they seemed warm to the idea of finding ways to increase their staff’s efficiency, some weren’t keen on the amount of staff time it would take.
Coun. Cathy Thicke was the first to wave a red flag over the hours the audit would rob from other projects.
“In some ways I’m pleased that we’re doing this because I’m sure we’re going to find out a lot of interesting things, but how onerous is it for staff to undertake,” she asked.
District CAO Bob MacPherson speculated 100-200 hours of staff time would be spent during the process but said those hours would be a good investment.
“These performance audits are, I think, a good thing for local governments and this is a good subject area for us as well,” he said. “There is an irony, of course, in wanting to examine how we deal with human resources and then requiring significant human resources investment to do that.”
Coun. Greg Blanchette expressed frustration over being forced to give up staff time without compensation from the provincial government.
“It smells very much to me like more provincial downloading,” he said. “They’ve decided we need to do this. They dump the task of it on us and give us no resources, not even any money or anything, to cover all of that staff time. I, kind of, resent it a little bit frankly but we’ll see what comes out of it.”
MacPherson empathized with Blanchette’s sentiment but reminded council that every municipality would eventually go through an AGLG audit.
“The good news is we’re getting our turn out of the way now and they probably won’t come back to see us for 20 more years,” MacPherson said.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow when we’re already busy but it’s work that we have to do and I think we’ll see some good outcomes…My personal view is every single municipality has areas where they can improve and this is meant to identify those so we can do business more efficiently and effectively on behalf of our taxpayers.”
Mayor Josie Osborne agreed.
“I think that investment of a couple-hundred hours of staff time, and some elected official time, is an investment that will pay off,” she said. “You have to invest time in learning how to do things better and I think that’s a worthwhile expense and I know we’re going to get quite a bit out of this.”
She suggested the AGLG would likely be wary of overburdening Tofino’s staff.
“I expect they’ll be very professional and as limited as they can be in taking the time, but they’re going to ask for some of our time and we’re going to invest it,” she said. “It will be very interesting to see how it all goes down and what we learn out of it.”