It shouldn’t have been so hard to track wasteful spending at TNRD: Taxpayers Federation | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Current Conditions

Mainly Clear
3.2°C

Kelowna News

It shouldn’t have been so hard to track wasteful spending at TNRD: Taxpayers Federation

February 24, 2021 - 7:00 AM

Expense claims and credit card receipts incurred by senior bureaucrats should be posted online to prevent wasteful spending, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says.

“If you’re some bureaucrat and you’ve got the taxpayers’ credit card in your hand, are you really going to buy a $100 gift certificate at the local liquor store on it, when you know it’s going to be posted on the internet?” Kris Sims, the B.C. director for the federation said. “I doubt it.”

She was reacting to a series of articles published after months of research by Kamloops This Week reporter Jessica Wallace detailing huge credit card spending by Sukh Gill over his last five years as CAO of the Thompson Nicola Regional District.

READ MORE: SPENDING AT THE TNRD: Board chair calls it ‘distressing’ and ‘excessive’

Gill spent lavishly on dinners for staff and politicians and even charged some liquor store expenses to the regional district credit card, KTW reported.

While he was not considered to have violated spending policies, he left under a cloud with a huge severance package about a year ago. That triggered the investigation.

“Number one, I almost laughed out loud when they tried to say, ‘oh well, it didn’t violate our policies,’” Sims said. “Your policies stink. Change your policies, number one.”

Even if the policies were not violated, the spending had to be laboriously tracked, often through Freedom of Information requests.

Sims understands that there were employees at the regional district who were concerned but were afraid to speak up.

This supports her call for the provincial government to reverse its plans to phase out the Municipal Auditor General. It announced a funding cut to that office a year ago and said it would be phased out in a couple of years.

Not only should it stay, it needs to be strengthened, Sims said.

“The reason we want to have a permanent and real and efficient Municipal Auditor General is so there is a place to call when a worker sees this stuff and it stinks and they want to phone,” she said. “There needs to be that whistleblower protection here.”

The Kamloops This Week reports say Gill, a former finance director with the regional district and an accountant by trade, directed some of his credit card charges to be billed to different accounts and usually itemized who was benefitting from the meals and other expenditures.

READ MORE: SPENDING AT THE TNRD: The fine art of budgeting expenses

“Maybe something needs to be changed within the (Local Government) Act so that every nickel of this needs to be posted online on a quarterly basis so, once every three months, or even every month, up goes the expenses,” Sims said. “Full receipts. Where did you go? What did you eat? How much did you spend?”

She said that kind of accountability is already required of some federal and B.C. politicians and employees.

The Kamloops This Week report also documented overtime claims Gill made for work during emergencies and even getting the Thompson Regional Hospital District to pay him retroactively for contributing 70 hours of his time each year to that board.

READ MORE: SPENDING AT THE TNRD: Salary augmented by overtime with the EOC

Gill even bought lavish gifts for departing employees, some of whom had to pay some of the cost back to the regional district since that did violate a policy that such gifts could only cost $25 per year of service.

READ MORE: SPENDING AT THE TNRD: The gift of giving

Sims said this is the worst case of misuse or abuse of taxpayer’s dollars that Sims has seen on the municipal level in B.C. She argued that it should not take a reporter a year to review a senior bureaucrat’s spending.

“How do we know there aren’t more out there?” Sims asked. “There could be. We’re operating in the dark here.

“If we had an office like this (Municipal Auditor General) it would make everybody’s lives easier, both the citizens and the journalists so, when you get that person who calls you from City Hall and says, 'hey, I think there’s a story here', you don’t need two weeks to go through everything. If we had this office, two clicks and it would be there.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2021
iNFOnews

  • Popular penticton News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile