Political Analyst and Observer, Bill Longworth's, Weekly "Eye on City Hall" Columns, as published in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada's Oshawa Central Newspaper

Monday, March 28, 2011

What's up Doc? Was There Some Illegal Hanky Panky at Oshawa City Hall?

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
April 4, 2011

Sometimes when a set of facts comes to your attention for which there is no public explanation, your imagination runs wild with speculation.

And today’s column is such a state of affairs.

A top city bureaucratic official, Commissioner of Community Affairs, Stan Bertoia, whose 2010 salary was $186,778.39, left employment at Oshawa City Hall and a few months later took up employment in a junior position (Head Civil Design) with the Toronto Transit Commission at a vastly reduced salary of about $115,000.

Mr. Bertoia’s former department controlled the largest city budget, in excess of $35M, of any city department.

His department was responsible for the maintenance, improvement and beautification of the City’s roads, parks and public open spaces, including maintenance of valley lands, walking and bike trails, and forestry and horticulture programs, management of the parking system, management of the City’s recreational facilities, including the delivery of fitness and leisure programs and support programs for arts and culture, as well as the management and maintenance of City buildings, waste collection and environmental programs----quite broad and far reaching technical responsibilities.

For such a senior official at city hall, you’d think that there would be some public acknowledgement of his leaving.

The lack of any public acknowledgement of this major change at city hall smells of rot.

Equally baffling is the very quiet appointment of Garth Johns, formerly commissioner of Durham Region Human Resources, whose 2010 Regional salary was reported as $181,981.42 to fill Mr. Bertoia’s former position.

Mr John’s appointment to this top level city position seems to have taken place without any external executive search, formal vetting process of alternative candidates, or any candidate competition, all of which you’d think would be standard for senior public positions.

Nor does any evidence exist that a set of job qualifications, background experience, or hiring criteria were ever developed. After all, the public has to be assured that the best candidate available was hired in any public service capacity and, in this case, there is no evidence of identifying candidate experience or qualification criteria.

Mr. Bertoia was a professional engineer, a basic requirement you’d think with a responsibility to oversee roads and public buildings and the whole host of technical responsibilities in his department.

Bertoia’s replacement, Mr. Johns, in addition to operating a part time Human Resources Consulting Practice, holds a BA in health administration, an MBA, is a Certified Health Executive, a Certified Municipal Officer and holds additional certifications in Organizational Development, Conflict Management and Coaching, certainly not the kind of technical expertise we’d think would be required to oversee major engineering responsibilities.

There has also been no public announcement of Garth John’s appointment to the city senior administrative position.

The only public acknowledgement is his appearance at the March 3, 2011 meeting of the city’s Community Services Committee Agenda as the “Acting Commissioner” which has since been recently replaced on the city web site as “Commissioner.”

You’d think that such a high level appointment would have been accompanied by a press release.

All of this secrecy about Bertoia’s leaving and John’s appointment and the giant mismatch in filling the vacancy leaves a smell in the air of cronyism and the mysterious and unexpected vacancy leads to thoughts of cover up….and why? Which is where speculation begins to take place!

Human Resources, which seems to be Mr. John’s expertise and experience, falls under Oshawa’s Corporate Services Committee….so Mr. John’s appointment to the technical Community Services Department seems to be a giant mismatch of experience, competence and training….and there has been no public acknowledgement of this significant change of upper management at city hall.

As best as I can discover, Bertoia left the city employ sometime after Aug 31, 2010, the last community Services Committee meeting he attended prior to the October 25, 2010 election, and became employed at the TTC in February, 2011. He didn’t attend the January 20th City Community Service Meeting and so at that date, he was absent, had been fired or had resigned, or was on enforced leave prior to the first meeting of the new council Community Services Committee meeting on Jan 20, 2011.

If indeed there were ethical issues involving a dismissal, did the city hide this from Bertoia's new public employer?

Another interesting question is why Johns would choose to leave his job at the Region for a very comparable salary at Oshawa City Hall. Perhaps Johns is now part of the succession planning for City Manager.

Anyway, there are too many questions....and no authoritative answers to the questions!

Public figures and corporations who are caught in difficult or unusual circumstances have learned to get out in front and take control of the situation, but in some cases, those with the facts just want to play dumb, and by so doing compound any residual public relations problems arising from the situation.

A personnel issue, presumably involving Bertoia, was discussed in a 5 minute closed session of the Jan 20,2011 City Council Finance and Administration Committee attended by Councillors Diamond, Bouma, Aker, Wood and Mayor Henry as well as Support Services Manager, Mary Medeiros, Corporate Services Commissioner Rick Stockman, and Finance Services Director Chris Brown.

This short 5 minute in-camera session was obviously simply an information session for councillors as there is no evidence of any discussion or decision being made in the few minutes and so I surmise the decision had been made earlier outside of the realm of council.

The fact that the closed meeting to discuss a confidential personnel issue was attended by the Corporate Services Commissioner and the Finance Services Director suggests discussion of unethical or illegal transgressions around city cash.

Smart PR people know that they can reduce the collateral damage of public speculation resulting from negative situations by full information disclosure--otherwise the public will expect the worst.

The fact that Mr. Bertoia left his city commissioner job at a 2010 salary of $186,778.39 for another employer that paid him about $115,000 annually which he started after a 3-4 month period of unemployment suggests a dismissal from his Oshawa position.

The fact that there have been no threats of lawsuits for wrongful dismissal suggests a dismissal for cause.

The fact that a “personnel issue” was discussed at the Jan. 20, 2011 in-camera meeting of the Finance and Administration committee of council attended by city financial officers, Corporate Services Commissioner R. Stockman and Finance Services Director C. Brown suggests a financial concern in relation to the personnel issue.

The fact that the personnel issue was discussed by a committee of council suggests a serious discussion about a senior level employee.

Obviously politicians Diamond, Bouma, Aker, Wood, and Mayor Henry who attended the Jan. 20th Finance and Administration meeting have decided to perpetrate the past lack of council transparency and keep taxpayers in the dark about potential difficult circumstances at city hall.

All of these politicians who have direct knowledge of all of the details of the issue campaigned on increased accountability and transparency, and now they’ve chosen to keep you, the taxpayer, in the dark!

In the light of no official information regarding this issue, and the juxtaposition of all of these factors along with Mr. Bertoia’s sudden and unexpected departure suggests a reasonable assumption of corporate fraud through one of the many types outlined in the Deloitte and Touché Report, “Confronting Fraud and Unethical Behaviour in Government” quoted in my March 7, 2011 Oshawa Central Newspaper Column "Greed Trumps Trust Even in Public Service."

As pointed out in the Deloitte Report, one in six cases of government fraud results in losses in excess of $1M and 26% of these cases were never prosecuted.

If indeed, there was some fraud perpetrated on public moneys in this case, then the public has a right to know the details of the loss and assurance that any guilty party would be prosecuted with full restitution and appropriate criminal penalties being sought.

If there was no fraud in this case, despite all appearances to the contrary, city officials have the responsibility to provide full information regarding Mr. Bertoia’s sudden departure from the city with a view to protecting his reputation and the integrity of the city’s financial controls.

A cover up is an injustice to every city taxpayer and every party interested and involved in this issue.

And another major question. Why is the Oshawa press not all over this like fleas on a stray cat? Is it possible they’re too busy researching stories on silly PR stunts like “Durham Politicians to shed pounds for good cause” to report on things that really matter?

We’d better pass this on to the Toronto papers for some serious investigation and reporting on Oshawa City Hall!

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Bill Longworth,
Oshawa Central Newspaper Political Columnist
March 27, 2011

There has been considerable speculation about who will carry the Liberal Banner in the upcoming Federal Election. Political columnist Bill Longworth has learned from an authoritative source Friday night that Liberals intend to parachute in a Crown Attorney from Richmond Hill as Oshawa'a Federal Liberal Candidate. If this indicates the state of readiness of the Liberal Party in Oshawa and across the country, Longworth says they are in for a rude awakening. No major party has parachuted a candidate into Oshawa in living memory and Longworth speculates that the Oshawa voters will show their distain for this action on election day.

Longworth says voters should expect other major blockbuster announcements regarding this election in the upcoming days.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Where’s the fat?

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
March 21, 2011

Where’s the fat? This is a fine question to contemplate as I sit on the best beach in North America, Florida’s Panama City Beach, where I have "March breaked" with my family since the early 70’s. Unfortunately, I’ll be back home before you read this!

So if the column seems a little disjointed---blame it on the beach!

So where’s the fat? What are you going to cut out of the budget? Those were questions I was asked dozens of times during the last election campaign when I pledged to cut taxes by 3%.

Where’s the fat? That’s the million dollar question because it is covered up by bureaucrats, elected officials, and public appointees whose interest it is to not let us know.

They’ll not voluntarily inform taxpayers of this any more than a crook will tell us what they’ve robbed and where they’ve hidden the stash.

Just rest assured, though, that in the city’s $115M+ budget, there is plenty of waste, fat, excess, inefficiency, and even some corporate fraud if Oshawa’s City Government is typical of other governments at all levels in the country.

As an example of criminal excess, It has recently come to light, as a result of an $1800 Freedom of Information request by the Globe and Mail, that a Niagara Parks Commission Executive racked up $400,000 on his corporate credit card over three years, and this kind of irresponsibility runs wild in the public service.

Further stories of public agency and government official’s waste, graft, partying, and drunkenness at your expense would curl your hair.

While we read of these stories frequently in the national press, many members of the public continue to deny excess and wastage in Oshawa City Government. These people must believe we have the only clean government in the nation!

Equally frustrating is the public’s inability to access the information with high costs, redacted and heavily edited releases, stonewalling, and government’s outright refusal, despite Freedom of Information Legislation, to release requested information.

In terms of the Niagara Parks Commission’s big time partying on the public dime, the real question is how this was allowed to occur without any kind of internal or external oversight....unless, of course, they had a “gentleman’s agreement” that all members of the commission’s executive board should, as a matter of common practice, run wild with public monies.

I reported in a past column of being hosted to a fancy dinner by an appointed member of the Oshawa Harbour Commission and being counselled to order from the right hand “price” column, this Harbour Commissioner explaining the culture of excess that he’d learned from the Chairman of the Commission while generously entertaining themselves with wine, women, and song on the many distant conventions and conferences they’d attended doing “business” (or holidaying and partying) on behalf of the city’s harbour.

While taxpayers will often complain of the high political salaries and expenses and will even complain about the high bureaucratic wages listed on Ontario’s Public Sector Salary Disclosure, these taxpayer costs are only a small fraction of the highway robbery being perpetrated on city taxpayers.

Taxpayers have a right to complain about municipal politicians, not only about their handsome salaries, perks, and benefits, but more about the ineffective and sloppy job they do in overseeing the functions of city hall, and the waste, graft, inefficiencies, and questionable spending that goes on there.

While political salaries and some political expenses are disclosed on the city website, and high bureaucratic salaries beyond $100,000 earned by about 80 city employees are disclosed on the Ontario Public Employee Disclosure, charges on credit cards issued to various departments and officials are not publicly disclosed.

City Council does not monitor or approve bureaucratic expenses charged to city charge cards and thus they are not providing oversight on the most potentially blatant misuse of taxpayer cash.

If some official in the small Niagara Parks Board can rack up over $400,000 in credit card purchases over three years, what are the charges being racked up on the dozens of city charge cards issued to senior city bureaucrats?

Obviously, it is in taxpayer’s interests to “hire” astute questioning individuals as trustees of the public purse.

During the election, I was calling for a 3% tax cut without an ounce of service cuts as the only way to cut out waste and excess from public spending.

Interestingly, one astute voter pointed out that I’d just lost the election when I announced that policy, since city hall staffers and their extended families were all voters, probably representing in excess of 20% of the pathetically low voter turnout, and none of them would want to see any cuts in city hall budgets.

City hall staff interests are best served with the election of docile and accepting politicians who are afraid to rock the boat. At present, there is so little debate or discussion at city hall that the Mayor brags that city council meetings are lasting just over an hour.

To me, these short meetings demonstrate a real problem---when bureaucrats learn that nothing is being questioned, discussed, or debated, they will ramp up their indiscriminate spending.

In my March 7th column, I reported that 10.5% of all occupational fraud was government related and that one in six of these cases resulted in losses exceeding $1M. Without strong and effective political oversight, these cases are bound to increase.

A strong councillor would present a motion for periodic forensic audits of all city hall financial systems to insure iron-tight controls over city hall spending. They would also call for time/efficiency studies to reduce costs of city hall operations.

These are the roles played by Canada’s and Ontario’s Auditors General, both of whom independently investigate any area they please, and whose public reports have the power to muster public pressures to embarrass governments into calling independent Royal Commissions to fully expose inefficiencies and oversights, and criminal and unethical activity in public spending. The investigations often lead to departmental re-organizations and procedures to implement recommendations, and in serious cases, firings and criminal prosecutions.

Unfortunately the investigative freedoms and right to subpoena records and take evidence under oath is not included in the contract of Oshawa’s Auditor General whose power is limited to being a political hack in a charade to provide political support for all bureaucratic actions at city hall.

If Oshawa’s auditor general had real teeth to expose wrongdoing and questionable spending, he would have brought the MBA tuition funding to public attention, for example, instead of providing comment only upon direction of city council after the expenditure was exposed by a member of the public.

The city of Oshawa publishes lists of cheques issued every month but only the recipient of the cheque, often a numbered company, is listed and not the reason or rationale for the expense. Unethical spending can be easily hidden in a few cheques of the thousands listed and will not alert any political oversight unless they are unusually large in the tens of millions of dollars. Anything less escapes all political scrutiny.

I’d like to see every cheque issued by the city and every charge card bill, accompanied by their detailed invoices, go through the office of Oshawa’s Auditor General who would sign off on expenditures only after they had passed the scrutiny of the department head and the city manager. All this prior to the detailed information reaching the politicians for their final approval.

It’s not that public workers are any more dishonest than other workers on the planet---it’s just that lax supervision systems of the spending habits of managers creates opportunity that spawns excesses. It’s like dropping a $100 bill in the middle of the floor. It won’t be long before it’s picked up by even the most honest of citizens.

There are enough examples of public employee spending excesses regularly in the big city newspapers to justify closing all floodgates of unethical or criminal opportunity.

It is obvious every government at every level needs Rob Ford and his strong leadership to derail the gravy train!

Where is Oshawa's Rob Ford?

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hey Stupid! It's Not the Government of Canada!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
March 14, 2011

So I bet you didn’t know that we have a new political party and a new government in our country.

For heaven’s sake, we may have even have had our nation renamed.

It’s now Harperland with the Harper Government, not the Canadian Government, or the Conservative Government, in charge.

The PMO has sent a directive to all departments that the words “Government of Canada” should be replaced by the words “Harper Government” in all Federal Government Communications.

So over Harper’s political history, he has morphed from Liberal to Reform to Alliance to Conservative (not Progressive Conservative which implies some forward momentum) and now to the Harper Party where he stands alone without a hope in hell of getting a parliamentary majority.

The Prime Minister has firmly put himself in the center of all Government operations reducing the role of Parliament, his Cabinet, the 308 Members of Parliament, and even the 143 members of his own party elected to Parliament. Only one person, Stephen Harper, counts in the Harper Government.

His control is such that cabinet ministers like Bev Oda, and the famous “not” inserted by the PMO into a government funding agreement document, are forced to take the “fall” for the Boss's directives---be damned the reputations of anyone in his cabinet or in his caucus.

Many of us have had those authoritarian bosses from hell that would have their staff take the blame for the boss’s orders when the thing goes bad and the heat rises.

Bosses with guts, of course, would have no part of this. They would have the strength of character to stand up and face the firing line. But not Harper. His strong arm style has everyone running scared.

Do as you’re told or face the consequences! Shortly after Harper’s Conservatives won a minority government, a bureaucrat who refused Harper’s order to refer to the newly elected government as "Canada’s New Government" in government communications was relieved of his duties.

As a guy more important than Parliament and its Parliamentary traditions and values, Harper makes his own rules as he goes along.

In December, 2008, Harper prorogued parliament when he faced defeat and prorogued it again in January 2010 when he didn’t want questions on the Afghan detainee issue interfering with his enjoyment of the Olympics. He broke his own fixed date election law to call a politically expedient election, and cheated on the 2006 Conservative Party election spending reports. Harper's Conservative Officials are currently under criminal investigation for exceeding party spending limits by transferring funds to 67 local candidates who would then use the funds to pay for national advertising. They'd then get a 60% reimbursement from Elections Canada that they'd then donate back to the National Party. In effect, taxpayers were paying a portion of the Conservative National Advertising Campaign and four officials of the Conservative party are now facing potential prison terms for this sleight of hand.

So much for the Canadian values of conciliation, compromise, fairness, openness, courtesy, respect, consideration, restraint, cooperation....and honesty!

Harper has placed himself above Parliament as the centre of the Canadian universe and maybe the only Canadian that matters.

Of course his scale of importance in his own mind was demonstrated by his prorogation of Parliament rather than facing a non-confidence vote he was bound to lose where he’d be forced to follow the long established British parliamentary tradition of resigning as Prime Minister.

I can understand that dictatorial governments like those deposed or close to it, Libya and Egypt, might be called the Muammar Gaddafi Government or the Hosni Mubarak Government since every action of those regimes was designed to maximize their leader's wealth on the backs of the people....but in Canada? Never!

Never mind using terminology like the “Harper Government” heading every piece of Government of Canada correspondence. Parliamentary tradition will not even allow the name of a member to be spoken aloud in the House and those so doing will be ruled “out of order” by the speaker.

One thing for sure, though, Government of Canada correspondence screaming "Harper Government" will be flying out to every world leader to impress them of Stephen Harper’s importance to our nation. It's his 15 minutes of fame and he'd better take advantage of it.

Historically, some countries have produced great government leaders like Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Gandhi.

If Harper, with his distinct lack of legislative accomplishment as a leader, can rebrand the government of Canada as the Harper Government, I can’t understand why there was no Winston Churchill Government or FDR Government, or Ghandi Government. After all, these political leaders are recognized worldwide as men of stature leading their countries and the world to great things.

And in Canada, we’ve had some great leaders in William Lyon Mackenzie King , Sir John A. Macdonald , Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Louis Saint-Laurent, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, and Lester Pearson, all judged as Canada’s greatest Prime Ministers by experts, and yet not one put themselves on the same kind of pedestal that Stephen Harper is climbing upon.

A PM, like Liberal Mike Pearson, who, like Harper, headed only minority governments, brought us the Canadian Flag, Old Age Pensions, and National Medicare, three major accomplishments that define Canada. All this, of course, was in addition to winning the Nobel Peace Prize for creating the UN’s first designated peacekeeping mission to resolve the 1956 Suez Crisis.

With these huge achievements, Pearson, had he been a less modest man, may have been justified in putting his name tag on the Canadian Government.

But no! Only Harper would do that! Combined with his iron-fisted control, it's a sure sign of insecurity!

With no achievements to speak of, and devoid of any legislative legacy, and with tons of broken promises, Harper's only legacy will be one of dictatorial rule and a flagrant disregard for the traditions and laws of Parliament.

In a recently published book, Harperland, columnist Lawrence Martin writes, that Harper has raised the concentration of power within the Prime Minister’s Office to new heights. To maximize his control over the government, the minority Parliament and the civil service, the prime minister has recurrently ventured where none of his predecessors have dared to tread.

And putting his name-brand on Canada’s Government is ample proof of his dictatorial style and his lack of concern for the plight of many Canadians.

Canadians should be wary of those that run up their own flag and blow their own horn---usually because no one else will do it! And usually for good reason!

If you are opposed to Stephen Harper rebranding the Government of Canada in his own name, you may want to sign the petition of Canadians

I did on the first or second day of the petition and was the 15155th person to do so.

My remarks there are that Stephen Harper has not done a damn thing of consequence for this country except to make "prorogue parliament" part of every Canadian's understanding of government irresponsibility.

Why not add your voice and your message to the petition?

Conversely, of course, you may disagree with the petition and want to start your own on the same site. Maybe something like, "Stephen Harper is the best thing since sliced bread for Canada and I fully support his efforts to rebrand Canada as Harperland"

You'll get at least two signatories to this petition. Yours...and Stephen Harper himself!

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/

Monday, March 7, 2011

Greed trumps Trust--- Even in the Public Service!

“Eye on City Hall”

A column of Information, Analysis, Comment, and Unfiltered Opinion
Reprinted from Oshawa Central Newspaper

Bill Longworth, City Hall Columnist
March 7, 2011

You can hardly pick up a newspaper these days without reading about more waste and abuse of public monies by public officials.

As I write this column, the Toronto Star headline screams about spending abuses on Toronto Police paid duty assignments whose officers are paid $65 an hour for unnecessary assignments around construction sites where the work could be done equally well by a few barricades....but such is the strength of public unions that negotiate the laws and hourly rates necessitating this public waste.

In 2009, Toronto taxpayers paid $7.8M on uneccesary police duty assignments, notwithstanding the extra wastage spent by the Provincial Government ($3.5M), City of Toronto entities (Toronto Water, Toronto Hydro, TTC---$2.6M) Construction Companies ($5.5M), Utility Companies ($5.2M)---most for work that could be performed by a few $5 barricades and reflective plastic traffic cones.

These paid duty assignments as well as paid court appearances, which probably act as an incentive for many officers to be quite aggressive in laying traffic charges, account for the incidence of many police officers earning well over $125,000 on Ontario’s Public Salary Disclosure List.

In Toronto, irresponsible, if not criminal, spending problems have surfaced within the Toronto Community Housing Corporation.

A week or so ago, Toronto’s Auditor General disclosed extensive wastage of public funds by staff officials of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation who expensed $40,000 of public money for a Christmas Staff dinner while many residents of Toronto public housing undoubtedly went without a Christmas dinner, $1000 for Holt Renfrew Chocolates, and $800 for staff massages at a summer picnic. Beyond these transgressions, TCHC staff disregarded corporate procurement policies and purchased big ticket items with sole sourced contracts, less than arms length deals, and spent $25M on an unsolicited proposal.

TCHC was governed by a Board of Appointed Citizens plus some politicians and resident appointees. But this civilian oversight was insufficient to properly supervise the spending approved by employed officials of the Corporation.

The Civilian Appointees to the TCHC, like politicians elected to oversee public organizations, simply do not have the skill, expertise, or intimate knowledge of the workings of the large organizations and, like stealing candy from a baby, hired bureaucrats can easily hide inappropriate and wasteful spending from prying eyes.

As I’ve said repeatedly in my columns, and in my campaign for mayor, the only way to insure growing productivity and efficiencies in public expenditures is to squeeze these out of the system with reduced annual capital allocations to force spending cuts, combined with a directive that there be no service cuts.

In addition, It would be helpful if all public senior managers were hired on renewable term contracts to insure their easy dismissal if they were unable to produce these growing efficiencies with decreasing tax allocations.

After all, this is the strategy the City of Oshawa implemented to control the investigations of its highly paid Auditor General who will have his 5 year term with its handsome salary renewed only as long as his reports remain supportive of city operations, politicians, and senior bureaucrats. He doesn’t have the independence of the Toronto Auditor General or those holding the position at the Provincial and Federal Levels. He’s literally a sheep in a wolf’s costume!

Jobs for Life guarantees, like those in Toronto for city CUPE employees, muzzles politician's abilities to work for increased productivity and increased cost efficiencies through contracting out. This is unusual job security foreign to the private sector. This iron rice bowl type of employment has even been abandoned in China where it led to an unproductive, unmotivated, and inefficient workforce that hindered China’s international industrial competitiveness.

Even here in Oshawa, city employee’s job security, salaries, and benefits are the envy of Oshawa’s work force.

Of course, appointed community representatives are often just as good as politicians and bureaucrats in hiding self-serving expenditures from prying eyes.

I was once invited to a fancy restaurant dinner by a federally appointed member of the Oshawa Harbour Commission who blatantly advised me, and the manager of a well-known local media organization eating with us, to order from the right hand column on the menu---the price column. It seems that blowing public money is contagious to all positions of public trust. Burning up OHC cash seemed a greater priority than what we ate.

Even highly respected politicians like long serving Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion is under an investigative cloud for donating only minimal proceeds from her charity fund raising events to advertised recipients, and of course, her potential conflict of interest charges for unduly influencing her son’s hotel development project in her city. It seems, no matter your moral compass at the beginning, increased tenure in the job moves you closer to the ethical edge.

I have commented often on all of the fat and waste in governments of all levels and of all stripes in these columns and have stated unequivocally that, while politicians contribute their fair share to this waste of taxpayer’s resources, they do not have the skills or the detailed knowledge of the government operations they oversee on our behalf to eliminate fraud, irresponsibility, deception, cheating, lying and unlawful or unethical conduct that occurs on their watch.

And the trust we have in politicians to come clean with the facts is often compromised by their proclivity for putting unjustly favourable or incomplete spins on the facts.

According to a report on Preventing Fraud and unethical behaviour in Government presented by Deloitte and Touché Canada, one of the largest and most prestigious audit, consulting, financial advisory, risk management, and tax service accounting firms in the country, a typical organization loses 6% of its revenue to occupational fraud, and 10.5% of these cases are government related with average losses of $45,000 with one in six occurrences resulting in losses exceeding $1M.

Frighteningly, governments failed to prosecute in 26.1% of these cases out of fear of bad publicity.

The report also indicates a direct relationship between employment tenure which is presumably correlated with increased responsibility and size of fraudulent loss, and presumably politicians move closer to that ethical line with increased public service....providing context to the Hazel McCallion case quoted earlier.

Internal fraud according to the Deloitte report is perpetrated by false financial reporting, kickbacks and bribes, phantom vendors, submission of fraudulent expense accounts, and payroll fraud...and we frequently read of such crimes against the taxpayer through investigative journalism or criminal investigation...unfortunately though, not in Oshawa where we have no news watchdogs over city council, except for this columnist and a few interested and public minded citizens who expose some transgressions that do escape the top secret mindset of city council and administration.

A recent highly publicized example of fraudulent and criminal misuse of taxpayer monies was exposed in the Gomery Inquiry which investigated bid rigging, fraudulent sole-source advertising contracts, and kickbacks totalling in excess of $100M, some of which was filtered back to political party election preparedness coffers.

Ron Fraser, Oshawa’s Auditor General, works under a 5 year renewable contract which makes him a “yes” man for city bureaucrats and politicians. His terms of employment require that his investigations result from city council direction and his renewable term precludes him from raising any fuss normally associated with Federal or Provincial Auditors General or indeed the Toronto Auditor General, all whose contracts make them much more independent from the political and bureaucratic functions in which they work.

In terms of some investigative work to discover huge wastages and lost tax savings in the city, I’d suggested politicians direct the auditor general to look at:
1) Mileage and private automobile use allowances paid to high auto expensing city staff members and suggestions on how to save money in this area. Two Toronto employees were billing $20,000 per year, in addition to their salaries.

2) Cost of duplications of service between city and regional levels of government and cost savings that would result from eliminating Oshawa Municipal Government and Administration

3) Cost of individual consultant’s reports to city hall, how and why they were sourced, how their fees were set, and their relationship to any city hall bureaucrats or politicians.

4) Commission Time/Study, Productivity and work efficiency studies in the various city hall departments to improve cost effectiveness

5) Analysis of the city hall general vote plebiscite process and strategy to establish whether voters were sufficiently informed of the impact of the change.

6) Costs and effectiveness of city PR, advertising, and promotion activities

7) Investigation of City Expense Accounts, staff and politician’s use of city charge cards,

8) And the list goes on....

Without a daily press or any investigative reporting in Oshawa, and a press controlled in large part by city advertising revenues, it is hard to pin down this kind of excess and wastage of public monies in Oshawa, but you can bet your bottom dollar, it’s just as bad.

Unethical conduct and spending by both politicians and bureaucrats alike will continue to go unreported like the MBA scandal did until uncovered by interested citizens interested in digging to find the truth.

And city taxpayers will continue to be penalized with the highest taxes in the GTA as this wastage continues!

Political and bureaucratic greed will continue to trump trust in serving the public.

Be sure to follow Bill’s radio broadcasts, “Eye on City Hall”,
every Monday, 6-9 pm EST, on http://www.ocentral.com/thewave/