Joly moves to disband audit committee

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St. Albert Coun. Natalie Joly is calling for a halt to the city’s new internal audit committee following the second meeting of its members.

The committee began meeting in March and its first task has been to put together a tender for the city to hire an internal auditor for a two-year term.

But Joly, who is a member of the committee, said the committee has lacked focus and she is worried it will go over budget without accomplishing what it needs to.

“I don’t want to spend $300,000 and have nothing to show for it,” she said.

On May 10, Joly filed a motion to rescind the audit committee bylaw and re-allocate the committee’s budget to two different areas.

She wants to see $100,000 go toward third-party audits of the city’s procurement practises and corporate risk management, while $262,000 would be funnelled into an assessment of St. Albert’s current corporate business processes and would also fund any changes recommended from that assessment.

“I want to make it very clear that internal audit functions are vital to ensure effective controls – I’ve been very open about that,” said Joly, who expressed frustration during last year’s municipal election with how long the process was taking to get the committee on its feet.

“On the committee, it became clear that where we were running into roadblocks was (where) we had no focus, and with a very limited project with a limited budget, my fear was that we would spend our entire budget trying to figure out what we want to do, rather than actually enacting meaningful change.”

Instead, she wants to see the focus put on specific areas of concern that city staff have already identified, such as procurement services and corporate risk management.

She is also concerned about city council wading into affairs best left to administrators.

She pointed to a municipal inspection report done by George Cuff last August, which suggested the previous council needed to focus on governance matters instead of administrative details.

“Cuff said in his report that we need to get our fingers out of those weeds, and this is putting us right back in there,” she said.

“The real struggle within the committee is that we’re not meant to be administrators. We don’t know the inner workings of administration … and that’s why we don’t know where to start, which is why we have to start at such a high level.”

Coun. Sheena Hughes, who also sits on the committee, said she was disappointed to see Joly’s motion come forward and wants to see council give the committee a chance before ruling on its fate.

She said she believes it is too early to worry about the committee going over budget.

“I think we should actually give the audit committee an opportunity to try to see what it can do before we disband it,” she said.

“We haven’t done anything yet, and it (could be) stopped before it’s started.”

Joly’s motion is tentatively scheduled to come before council on June 11, although that is subject to change.

The internal audit committee was officially established last year, with the hope that an internal auditor could provide oversight of city finances and operations and potentially save the city money.

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