News / Ottawa

Auditor general won't look at Ottawa 2017 spending

A request from Councillor Diane Deans that the city's spending on the sesquicentennial be probed was left off next year's work plan.

Thousands of people came out to view La Machine, one of the largest Ottawa 2017 events.

File / Metro

Thousands of people came out to view La Machine, one of the largest Ottawa 2017 events.

The city’s auditor general won’t be conducting an audit into the way Ottawa 2017 funds were used, a process which has been criticized for a lack of transparency. 

The city’s audit committee met on Thursday to approve the 2018 work plan—essentially, what the auditor general plans to look at next year—and a request made by Coun. Diane Deans that the office look at spending associated with Ottawa 2017 was left off the list. 

Ken Hughes, the city’s auditor general, said that it got left off next year’s work plan because other issues were deemed more pressing. 

“We put it on our list, and when we looked at all of the activities that we were going to look at, it fell further down the list,” he said. “Most of the projects we audit are projects that, in our mind, would present risk to the corporation.” 

Deans, however, argued that next year would be the appropriate time to look at the way Ottawa 2017 money was spent. 

“It’s very important to do it in a timely fashion,” she said. “Let’s talk about things that are happening now, that are meaningful now.” 

"Ottawa 2017 has always been transparent and proactive in sharing information about program elements and costs," said Denise LeBlanc, spokesperson for Ottawa 2017. "we adhere to rigorous standards in meeting our reporting obligations, as set out in our more than 150 partner agreements."

Deans said that she expects that some of the events will be carried over into future years, but doesn’t want to see that happen without associated spending being brought before committee. 

“We have had wonderful events,” she said, “but there was not much transparency or accountability around the funds that were being expended.” 

Deans levelled criticism, though muted, at the way Ottawa 2017 was handled from a fiscal perspective. 

“There was a veil of secrecy around the entire office, and it’s not clear in my mind how that happened,” she said. “We spent a lot of funds on that in 2017, and I think the public has a right to know the details.”

Deans may find some conciliation in the fact that the auditor general will be conducting an audit of the staff estimate process, something else she was vocal about at committee. Staff estimates are a crucial ingredient in policy making, and Hughes said that his office will be looking at the process by which staff settle on figures that are ultimately sent to various committees. 

Also included on next year’s work plan is a look at the way benefit payments are processed at the city, a performance audit of Ottawa fire services, and an audit of the operation of urban planning services. 

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