Hoping to allay criticism that it is unwisely spending taxpayer money, Halifax council has hired an auditor general to inspect the city's books.
The decision was made in a secret council session last Tuesday, and no substantial information has been released to the public---we don't yet know the name of the person hired, the person's salary or what powers the auditor will have. That information is to be released when the new auditor's employment contract is signed, but as of press time the information was still secret.
But during the open council session that followed the secret decision-making, several councillors referred to the new auditor as "he," said that his first day on the job would be September 28 and, most pointedly, said that his first assignment would be to look at the police department budget.
A review of the police budget may be warranted, but the fact that council is dictating the auditor's actions calls into question the independence of the position. An independent auditor should have the freedom to begin investigations as he sees fit, without interference or direction from politicians.
On the other hand, council opted not to pursue city legal staff's suggestion that the city charter be changed so that the auditor's reports to council be kept secret from the public. Instead, all auditor reports will be available to the public.
If the auditor is truly independent, perhaps he should first review council secrecy. —Tim Bousquet