Where is the Accountability and Transparency?

Council is responsible for approving the spending of taxpayer dollars.

We do not always know if the money was appropriately spent for the purpose intended. Too many times, Councillors bring forward motions to allocate money for projects that we never hear about again.

Here are a couple of examples.

      • $10,000 was added to the 2022 budget to help address the opioid crisis in Cobourg. How was this money spent? Who did it help?
      • $6,000 was added to the 2022 budget to support the collaborative efforts of Green Wood Coalition to coordinate and provide a drop-in outreach program. Where was this outreach program held? Who participated? How many did it help? What are the lessons learned to better implement future programs?

Was the money ever spent as it was intended? We don’t know and Council likely also does not know.

Supporting worthy causes that help our community is important but so is making sure the money is used sensibly in reaching those in need. It helps all of us feel better knowing we were able to help but many times there is no communication back to Council or taxpayers on the results.

The Community Improvement Program (CIP) was expanded to assist in funding affordable housing. Many candidates are proposing expanding the program even before the first applications have been approved. Why would you propose spending more money before knowing how well the program is working and whether it benefited those it was meant to? Will we ever know if it is working as intended?

Councillors are good at initiating projects but never following up on how well they were completed and whether they were successful.

The Municipal Act requires that within 60 days after receiving the audited financial statements, they are published and made available to residents. The Town’s 2021 financial year end was December 31, 2021; ten months ago. The Town’s audited financial statements have not been published or presented to Council. Why? Why has our Mayor and Council not asked for them? The CAO and Treasurer need to be held accountable for presenting the audited financial statements as required by legislation.

Cobourg has an external auditor, but their role is limited to ensuring internal controls are in place and financial statements are not misstated. They do not review how well the programs are managed or offer advice on improvements to the process.

Cobourg has an Audit Committee, consisting of Councillors and Town staff, whose role is to review the draft financial statements and the audit findings report. There are no members of the public on the committee. Their role is limited.

What can be done?

It’s time for Cobourg’s Audit Committee to have its role and membership expanded. The role should be extended to review that spending on programs has been completed as intended, the programs are well managed, and make recommendations to improve the process. At least two members of the public should be added to the committee and financial literacy should be a requirement. Quarterly reporting to Council should be required.

It is time for taxpayers to know their property tax money has been spent wisely.

Ask candidates for a simple yes or no answer if they will support the expanding the role of the Audit Committee and adding members of the public to provide the oversight needed to maintain the trust between Council and its residents.

Their answer will tell you how serious they are about accountability and transparency.