By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District board took several expense-control measures at its meeting this week (March 11, 2021).
An independent third-party review and audit of directors’ and staff credit card expenses will be commissioned with a view to improving internal controls and oversight. The review will cover the period from 2015 to 2020.
“Recent events have resulted in a need for the TNRD to go beyond the annual audit and seek a third-party independent review of past practices with respect to expenditures and a thorough examination of financial records,” stated a preamble to the motion proposing the review, which was initiated by board chair Ken Gillis.
“The TNRD wishes to continue doing business in a way that is cost efficient with appropriate oversight measures and safeguards in place to ensure this happens, and be more accountable and transparent to the public.”
The review will include an analysis of all TNRD senior staff and board expenses during the five-year period as well as an examination of past and current practices, processes and policies.
The project will go out for proposals after which it’s expected to take about three months. It won’t be cheap — likely somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000, but my view is that it can pay for itself if it results in better spending controls.
The motion approving the study passed by a vote of 25-1.
I proposed that, going forward, a detailed expense report be published at least every three months so the public can take a look on a regular basis at exactly what’s being expensed. Chief financial officer Doug Rae will come back with a plan to accomplish that.
The board also rejected a pay increase this year. Normally a raise would be based on the Consumer Price Index, which this year would have meant a .8 per cent bump. Though the raise would have been small, I felt zero percent was more appropriate and was pleased when the board unanimously rejected any increase.
I also proposed a motion that the Hospitality Policy be rewritten to ensure that any alcohol consumed by board directors or staff at events is paid for by the individual, not by the TNRD.
I had made a similar motion last year but it was defeated with 11 directors in favour and 15 opposed. Instead, the board then approved a new policy with a two-drink maximum.
This time, though, my motion gained unanimous approval, which I hope removes an irritant that symbolized a sense of entitlement. The alcohol issue has come up consistently over the past few weeks as an example of board spending that has angered taxpayers.
Still on the subject of spending, I withdrew a notice of motion that would have opened consultations with School District 73 and the City of Kamloops on the possibility of combining resources for a new civic meeting space.
My rationale was that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced all three to use alternate meeting spaces to ensure safety measures can be maintained. The TNRD board and City council have both been meeting in the Valley First Lounge, proving that one meeting space can be used by more than one elected body.
The TNRD board room, school board meeting room and City council chambers have all become inadequate over the years. I felt combining our efforts on a new multi-purpose meeting space could save taxpayers a considerable amount of money.
However, the City and school board both indicated in discussions with TNRD staff that they’d rather stick to their own, individual meeting spaces, so I dropped my motion.