Municipal auditor fired with no severance

Premier Christy Clark's experiment in holding down municipal costs will continue with new auditor, minister Coralee Oakes says

Community

The B.C. government has fired its Auditor General for Local Government, after accountant Basia Ruta “lost all confidence” of her supervisors to complete audits that compare local government spending practices.

“The auditor general for local government’s obstruction of an intended review of her office has created an intolerable situation that compounds the unstable work environment and lack of performance from that office,” said Community Minister Coralee Oakes, who took the action on the recommendation of the government-appointed audit council.

Former deputy minister Chris Trumpy was due to start his own review of the new office Monday. It is the first attempt in Canada to do “performance audits” by comparing groups of municipalities, but the performance of Ruta’s office has become the pressing issue.

Oakes said Ruta will not be offered severance pay, because the government has determined she has been fired for cause. The work environment in the Surrey office of the AGLG had deteriorated, and Ruta’s decision to refuse Trumpy’s involvement led to the decision, she said.

Ruta issued a statement through her lawyer Monday, saying she will go to court to challenge the decision to fire her.

Hired to execute an idea proposed by Premier Christy Clark in her 2012 bid for the B.C. Liberal Party leadership, Ruta set herself a target of 18 audits in the first year. Clashes with the staff at her Surrey office and the audit council began to emerge last year.

NDP local government critic Selina Robinson said the two-year-old office has lost credibility over spending $5.2 million over two years to produce only one audit. Two more reports were issued last week.

The function should be included in the existing B.C. Auditor General office, which is an independent office of the legislature, Robinson said.

Oakes said she remains committed to the current structure, which had envisioned three audits in the first year and five in the second. It was Ruta who raised expectations far beyond that and then didn’t deliver, she said.