I have spent more than just a few hours looking at the finances of the District of Barriere.
One of the aspects I looked at is how money is spent. By that I mean who is it that authorizes each expenditure?
The choices generally are district management staff, employees or council.
In larger centres, council would have very little to do with approving the day to day expenditures. Council’s role would be to give general guidance and instruction to the chief administrator or city manager around the direction each department should take to fulfill the strategic objectives as set out by council. Once the objectives are set and the priorities given by council to senior management, staff would follow the procedures and policies that have been developed to actually run the city.
That is what would happen in an established well run big city existing in a more or less perfect world.
In a perfect world the procedures and policies would allow for all the lofty ideals toted by elected officials to actually form the basis of how to run the city. Things like openness and transparency would be more than just election slogans. They would be the cornerstone of each policy and procedure written to guide staff in their day to day work.
Councillors could go to bed each night knowing that all that can be done to have their city run in a fair and equitable manner is being done each and every day, with no exceptions.
There would never be calls or letters from disgruntled residents accusing council of doing behind the scenes deals, or hiding things from the public. The world would be a calm and serene place and everyone would be happy.
The problem is that people are just people. People will not act like a creation right out of a feel good movie just because we want them to.
In general we all follow the path of least resistance in life.
Take for example the current method in which local Requests For Quotations are put out to the public. Apparently there is no specific rule, procedure or policy that says each potential contract the district proposes needs to be advertised in the paper, the district website and on widely used contract bid sites. Therefore, chances are human nature will prevail and the opportunity will appear wherever it is easiest to do.
Does this fulfill the concept of doing business with an eye to openness and transparency? I think that for most people the answer would be no.
The true failure here is not the actions of staff, but the lack of proper procedures that would guide staff in their actions. Poorly written policies and procedures that are not vetted for their usefulness bedevil every local government.
Even if a resident has no intention of putting in a quote to provide services, or bid on a contract, they like to know what is going on in their city. They want to know what money will be spent and why.
I agree with this, and I also recognize that even though people want to know information, they will not go out of their way to get it. It is up to the district to engage the public and welcome their ideas.
Going forward we will be developing five and 10 year plans for our parks, water, sewer and roads maintenance and growth strategies, as well as revamping district policies and procedures so that they better fit the needs of our community.
Each community is unique and a cookie cutter approach to writing these documents never works. We need to properly recognize what our community holds dear and preserve that as best we can.
Early October 18, saw Ms. Matthew’s Grade 3 class arrive at the district offices full of questions and enthusiasm. They spent the morning talking to council and staff as well as taking over the council chambers to brush up on their skills at running a council meeting. Based on how well behaved and eager these young people were, I see a bright future for Barriere.
Many thanks to Ms. Matthew and her helpers for brightening our morning by arranging such a nice visit.