performance audit

Government auditing standards, promulgated by the US GAO, define a performance audit as "an objective and systematic examination of evidence for the purpose of providing an independent assessment of the performance of a government organization, program, activity, or function."

A performance audit can help a local government determine not only the cost of an activity, but also its effectiveness.

not in Canada

Auditor General Sheila Fraser, on February 15, 2005, criticized this lack of performance audit discipline in Canada, in particular for federally-funded agencies that had about nine billion Canadian dollars' worth of capital assets under management.

Also in Canada, municipal and some provincial governments have no audit function of any kind other than annual review of their financial statements by a public accounting firm within PSAB standards which are themselves inadequate - there is not even a PSAB capital asset standard. Also, GAAP has not been applied to governments.

effectiveness, efficiency, equity

None of these address the central questions of effectiveness, efficiency and equity. This is what citizens pay for. This is what must be examined, and improved in any public accounts reform, accounting reform and monetary reform regime.

It is a difficult, but solvable, problem. The Civic Efficiency Group has advocated a set of reforms to the Minister of State - Communities and Infrastructure, the Mayor of Toronto David Miller, and Toronto City Council, a set of recommendations that are also going to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada focusing on municipal role in emergency response, total cost of operations, municipal statistics and how to do performance audits that will satisfy everyone. The specific proposals and concepts are visible at:

The basic approach is to:

start with ecological and social indicators

The Government of Canada, thanks to the Greens, now applies ecological and social indicators to its major decisions. It remains however to apply these at every level of government, to audits of every kind. For this a standard is required which will result in a form of triple bottom line accounting. When Municipal Performance Audits are being performed in accordance with these principles, then, Canadians will believe they are getting value for money. Until then, there are barriers to improved Federal-Municipal Relations - federal politicians cannot authorize release of funds to unaccountable levels of government.

extend with ISO 19011

The ISO 19011 audit protocol is a good starting point for improved methods of performance audit that incorporate quality management and risk management. Quality management in government is increasingly reliant on such integrated ISO standards, such as ISO 14000, which has already been advanced by the Green Party of Canada in the Canadian federal election, 2004.

refine with/for emergency response

It is in emergency situations that government is stressed to the maximum and that is when it becomes obvious whether systems are robust or not. Accordingly it is emergency response - not just support of first responders but of the whole system "behind" them (the 911 and 311 handoff, the Emergency Operations Centre and network operations centre, teleworkers adn so on - where performance is most on display.

For instance the biosafety level 4 lab located in Winnipeg has required re-engineering all work processes and protocols around that lab so that Fire and Police are quite ready to deal with the difference between "foolproof" and "almost foolproof". This would be an ideal place to pioneer performance audit criteria and ensure they measure matters of importance

Halifax, with its recent history of Hurricane Juan, long memory of the Halifax Explosion, and current environmental woes, would be another good candidate to pioneer a Municipal Performance Audit regime.