Municipal Performance Audit


In Canada many local governments have no audit function of any kind. The only audit work they have done is the annual review of their financial statements by a public accounting firm. That process only confirms whether the financial statements have been prepared in accordance with generally accepted government accounting standards set by the PSAB; it does not address the central questions of effectiveness, efficiency and equity. It does not apply any of the ecological and social indicators that the federal government applies now to its own decisions. It does not refer to obligations such as green procurement or Kyoto Protocol. It is, in a word, inadequate. The EU and the US do much better in this kind of accountability:

First developed in the late 1960s and shepherded by the United States General Accounting Office US GAO, the chief audit arm of the US federal government and equivalent to the Auditor General, performance auditing has spread to most state governments and nearly all of the best managed local governments. The very best managed local governments are now instituting continuous municipal performance audits, e.g. Baltimore CitiStat, which supportly weekly accountability sessions where senior politicians question staff closely on performance questions.

This has been proven to have extreme benefits: Baltimore's program paid off 45x its initial costs in the first year, and more in the second. It is now being copied all over the US as the benefits of transparency municipalities become clear. For one thing, when a 311 service is instituted, a transparent municipality finds it very easy to accomodate a flood of data about municipal services and institute


In First Nations Governance a similar function is required, but that is not "Municipal", contrary to some positions taken on this issue by Conservatives.


Municipal Performance Audits should be instituted throughout Canada. They are a critical component of local government assessment and central to improved Municipal Governance and better Federal-Municipal Relations. Without more Transparent Municipalities it is unreasonable to expect any New Deal For Cities not to result in controversy as federal taxpayer funds pay for city works of undetermined and unmeasured intangible benefits.

See the City Infrastructure Loan citizen initiative for the solution to this problem proposed by the Civic Efficiency Group.