Watchdog asks City Council to save money, be more transparent (budget meeting 4-Dec-2012)

CoV 2013 budget outlook screenshotCity of Vancouver will hold a special public meeting to review and provide input on the 2013 budget. Meeting details are here. Concerned citizens are encouraged to review the materials (and take note of gaps too), and to write or speak to council.

Unfortunately this budget is incomprehensible.  Essential information is missing – [about] how this budget was created.  This consultation process is meaningless in the absence of that information.

So writes long-time city budget watcher Donna Liberson, who has shared with CityHallWatch her planned address to Vancouver City Council after 6 pm on December 4, 2012. Ms. Liberson has for years been trying to crack the secrecy of Vancouver City Hall’s finances and financial processes. The Vancouver Courier covered her story in 2011 in an article (“Two-year wait for 71-page city services review over: City hall watchdog questions secrecy, cost of consultant’s reports” — by Sandra Thomas, 28-Oct-2011). The article describes how the City went to great expense and great lengths to avoid providing her reports by independent experts on the City’s finances and ways to be more efficient.

Below are excerpts from Donna Liberson’s planned address. We will post her actual statement, with additional comments, after the meeting.

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Donna Liberson to City of Vancouver Mayor and Council:

I applaud you for taking the position that the budgeting process should be transparent and to this end giving us, as members of the public, this opportunity for input.

….. The right questions are never asked – Is this service or project necessary?  What would happen if we didn’t have it?  What would be the most beneficial way to do this? How many years has this allocation of funds for a project been included in the budget and that project is never started or completed and those funds instead allocated to another project not in the budget?

The corruption in Montreal may not be happening in Vancouver.  However we must not be complacent.  We need not only to avoid corrupt practices; we need to be able to demonstrate integrity to the public.

… We need to shine a light on how every department operates, what the actual budgetary needs are and the procurement process for goods and services – especially in engineering. Every City department needs to be reviewed in a rotating 3 year cycle, the largest departments – e.g. engineering on an annual basis.

… We need to have openness and accountability in the City of Vancouver.  Instead the in-camera meetings have increased from a few a years to every time there is a Council meeting.  The decisions on how our City is run are made in secret.  Contracts are awarded without proper tender or Council scrutiny.  Freedom of Information requests, especially regarding contracts are routinely denied.  The door is wide open for abuse and Montreal style corruption.

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