Posts Tagged: ombudsman

Feb 11

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 –

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.

Jan 11

The only thing the budget committee cut: oversight

The National Post’s Chris Selley follows up on the story about cuts to the Toronto ombudsman’s office by noting that it was literally the only change to the budget made this week:

On Jan. 10, the city’s recommended gross operating budget stood at $9,372,571,000 and allowed for 47,063 staff positions. After six agonizing days of minute budget committee discussions, it now stands at $9,372,468,000 and allows for 47,061 staff positions. From dozens of separate departments’ and agencies’ budgets, the thrift-minded committee squeezed two staff positions and $103,000. And it all came from one budget: the ombudsman’s, which had been set to increase by roughly 10%.

via Chris Selley: Ford cuts one thing — oversight at city hall | Posted Toronto | National Post.

The whole thing just strikes me as insane. The argument that Councillor Peter Milczyn has advanced — that the ombudsman may not need those staff members because customer service will improve over the next year — seems to suggest that the previous council was actively in favour of bad customer service.