Local government auditor feud intensifies

AGLG Basia Ruta rejects appointment of former deputy finance minister Chris Trumpy to review her performance

Basia Ruta

B.C.’s new Auditor General for Local Government has refused to take part in a performance review of her office by a former deputy minister appointed by her supervisors.

Basia Ruta, who became Canada’s first local government spending watchdog in 2013, has been under fire in the legislature in recent weeks after producing only one report in her first two years. For the second time in recent months, Ruta has retained her own lawyer in an effort to fend off attempts to examine her performance.

Thursday Ruta issued two more reports on municipal spending in Delta and Rossland, bringing the total to three. Her initial self-imposed target was 18 reports in the first year of operation, but she has since said she underestimated the diversity of B.C. local governments and the job of establishing a new office.

Ruta issued a statement Thursday calling the appointment of reviewer Chris Trumpy “unlawful,” and suggesting Trumpy’s potential bias and connections to the B.C. Liberal government would undermine her independence. That followed a lawyer’s letter to her supervisors, the five-member Audit Council who hired her, stating that B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer would be the only person impartial enough to review her.

Ruta said she is surprised the Audit Council chose Trumpy, a former deputy finance minister who now works as a consultant with former education minister George Abbott.

NDP local government critic Selina Robinson, who initially raised the issue of Ruta’s performance in the legislature, said Premier Christy Clark’s initiative from her leadership campaign has cost more than $5 million so far, and it isn’t working.

“It’s a mess, and the trail of that mess leads directly back to the Liberal government’s legislation that established the office that no one but the premier wanted in the first place,” Robinson said.

Ruta said in an interview Thursday that she has had good cooperation from local governments in comparing local government financial management, after initial objections from mayors and councillors.

The office now has “momentum” and will complete its first 18 reports by the end of this year, Ruta said.