Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No audit for mayor or committee chairmen

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Mayor Sam Katz

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DISCRETIONARY spending by the mayor's office and committee chairmen will not be subject to an audit this year.

Couns. Paula Havixbeck and John Orlikow wanted the mayor's $116,000 discretionary spending and the $7,000 given to each chairman on executive policy committee included in the 2013 audit by the city auditor.

But a majority of committee members said Thursday the auditor had enough work this year and the discretionary spending is already being examined as part of a comprehensive review of councillors' ward-allowance spending.

"The need to be open and transparent has never before been higher," Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) told the governance committee. "There is a different set of rules applied on the mayor's budget and on the chairmanships' budgets."

Havixbeck said the discretionary funds allotted to the five chairmen of EPC should be subject to the same rules on how councillors spend their ward allowances, known formally as discretionary allowances.

There are regulations that govern eligible councillor expenses, Havixbeck said, but those rules are not applied to the additional money a councillor receives as committee chairman or to the mayor's discretionary budget.

Orlikow (River Heights-Fort Garry) said no one is making allegations of improper spending, but saying subjecting that spending to an audit is the right thing to do.

"I go on the principle of lead by example," Orlikow said. "The more we can be open and the more we can be accountable, it helps everything."

Orlikow said he doesn't understand why the same oversight isn't applied to the mayor's office and the committee chairmen as to councillors.

Councillors have a ward budget of about $116,000. Spending is subject to specific criteria.

Councillors appointed to chair one of the five executive policy committees -- protection and community services, infrastructure renewal and public works, finance, downtown development, property and development -- receive the additional $7,000, which is not subject to review.

The mayor's office has a discretionary fund of about $116,000. There are no rules governing what constitutes eligible expenses, but the mayor's office posts the spending online.

Coun. Devi Sharma said the question of oversight of discretionary spending is being looked at as part of a comprehensive review by the committee and the offices of the city clerk and city auditor.

Sharma (Old Kildonan) said it's premature to subject the mayor and committee chairmen's discretionary spending to an audit before the review is complete.

Committee chairman Grant Nordman, who is also council Speaker, said it would be unfair to impose new spending rules on committee chairmen and the mayor's office.

Nordman said he expected recommendations from the comprehensive review would be released by May 2014 and in place following council elections next fall.

Havixbeck said when she was a committee chairwoman she asked how the additional $7,000 was to be spent.

"Some said it was for travel, some said it was for additional meals... but I never got a clear answer," Havixbeck said.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Should all discretionary spending at city hall, including the mayor’s and committee chairmen’s, be subject to an audit? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 4, 2013 B1

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Updated on Friday, October 4, 2013 at 8:09 AM CDT: Adds photo, adds question for discussion

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