When the oversight office isn’t ideological enough

Two quick stories that feel very much related.

First, Daniel Dale and Paul Moloney at The Star tell us about the three million dollars the city will spend this year hiring consultants to, presumably, save the city half a billion dollars:

Facing a $774 million budget shortfall for next year, Toronto will spend up to $3 million this year to pay consulting companies to scrutinize the city’s operations in search of savings.

While the city regularly employs consultants for specific projects, the $3 million will be devoted to what for Toronto is an unprecedented, wide-ranging corporate review of government departments and programs.

via City to spend $3M on consultants – thestar.com.

Then there’s this from Chris Selley, which contains some clarifications from City Obudsman Fiona Crean after her office was attacked by Councillor Doug Ford at this week’s council meeting:

During the debate, councillor Doug Ford levelled a variety of allegations at Ms. Crean: that she has been “lobbying” every councillor for more money; that her office only fielded 1,500 telephone calls last year, or roughly six a day; that unlike all the other accountability officers, she has a director of communications; and that because she hasn’t posted her expenses online, we don’t know how much this communications director might make — he guessed $100,000 — or how much her recent “36-page, … four-colour, self-promoting brochure” cost to produce.

All of that is either wrong, misleading or forcefully disputed by Ms. Crean.

Crean, you may recall, had her budget cut, despite Ford changing the city’s boilerplate to now read “Toronto’s government is dedicated to … creating a transparent and accountable government.” That dedication doesn’t extend, I guess, to properly funding an office dedicated to transparency and accountability.

So the city is now in the weird position of funding two things – an independent ombudsman and a group of consultants. They’re both dedicated to increasing accountability and efficiency, though the latter, presumably, will be far more concerned with the city’s bottom line. More importantly, though, the consultants will likely work for the mayor’s office — conforming to their ideology and following their direction.

It’s starting to look like Team Ford may want to replace the city’s independent ombudsman with one who works for them.

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