City considers random audits of Winnipeg councillors’ expenses

WINNIPEG — Some major changes could be coming to city hall aimed at making councillors more accountable.

The Winnipeg public service is recommending the city hire an external auditor and randomly audit the expenses of five councillors each year.

“The random selection process must ensure that every councillor is subject to an audit at least once during each term of office and that every councillor has the possibility of being audited each year,” reads a report by a council on governance.

There are 15 councillors in Winnipeg, who each serve a four-year term.

Hiring an external auditor between 2021 and 2023 would cost an estimated $99,000.

Todd McKay, prairie director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the investment is worthwhile.

“It gives a really good objective view of what’s going on and it creates good accountability for taxpayers,” McKay said on Monday. “If there is any funny business, anything questionable, there is a good chance they can jump on it quickly.”

The recommendation to hire an outside firm comes after the city stopped doing annual audits on councillors.

“(A) review concluded that having the City Auditor auditing City Council threatens the independence of the office, because as a Statutory Officer for the City of Winnipeg, the position of the City Auditor is appointed directly by Council,” reads the report.

McKay said bringing in an outside auditor is a step in the right direction.

“The way they were doing it before, the bureaucrats at city hall were taking a look at receipts. No doubt, those are good people doing their best. But it put them in a position where they’re essentially auditing their bosses on city council,” said McKay. “That’s a bad spot to put somebody (in).” 

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