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City lays out template for auditing departments over the next five years

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

With the city’s budget stamped and approved, the eyes of city staff will now turn to the year ahead and the tasks at hand. The same goes for the city’s external auditor, who will now initiate the process of launching the next in a series of ongoing audits of selected city departments.

These audits, completed by outside consultant KPMG, look for ways in which the city may be working inefficiently and will recommend ways to change moving forward that will hopefully save the municipality money.

In all, seven audits will take place over the coming year with a final approved budget of $281,300, which will include follow-up audits of the city’s fleet management processes, real-estate division and health and safety practices. Additionally, absence management, workforce productivity data and information, and enforcement processes will be audited. The final audit was tacked on late during the budget deliberations and will include a deep look at the city’s reserves.

According to Helen Break, the city’s director of strategic initiatives, the list of audits is completed mainly by KPMG, but in consultation with senior members of Oshawa staff.

“We don’t see this list until they give it to us,” she says. “But we certainly have discussions about what we think would give us the biggest bang for the buck in the current year coming up.”

Also as part of the process, Break says that the Corporate Leadership Team meets with department heads to discuss how things are operating throughout the organization to identify areas that might need review. And while there may be a number of suggestions coming forward, Break says that the city’s budget allows for a limited number of audits in a given year.

In total, KPMG has brought 11 audits through council, including looks into: health and safety, fleet management, and overtime. The audits have proven quite proficient at pointing out flaws in the city’s operations, including the lack of a system for tracking overtime across the organization, and a practice in fleet purchasing that saw staff ignoring council directives and making recommendations to purchase vehicles ahead of replacement schedules.

Currently, city staff are moving ahead with the recommendations in those audits in order to close the gaps or change processes to improve methods.

“I think we have to work with the recommendations as best we can based on the workload staff have,” Break says. “But I don’t see anything sitting on the shelf.”

Moving forward, KPMG has also delivered a tentative list of potential audits planned for the coming years with nearly 10 options slated annually.

Break says that certain items can be shifted or moved around based on priority or the amount of risk involved in the process, and that staff can push for certain audits if they feel they should be moved forward.

“If (staff) feel strongly that they want to see something elevated and they have a good rationale, then KPMG listens and goes back and assesses based on their criteria,” Break says.