REPORTING · 20th September 2011
There is a legend about the rock artist, Van Halen. Every contract included a clause for a bowl of M&Ms with all the Brown M&Ms removed. If the bowl had Brown M&Ms in it, the concert would be stalled. The bowl, according to the legend, was a test to see if the band’s contract was honoured
The bands requirements on stage were so specific, if one item was out of place, people could get seriously hurt. If the bowl was not prepared as per the contract, they would have reason to believe the rest of their contract had also not been honoured and this gave them the ability to do a full stage check.
The Statement of Accounts, a document which the City Council approve of every month, reads like a phone book. Each entry is numbered, contains the business which Council does business with, and how much is spent, as well as other public information.
At the meetings where the statement is approved, Councillors brings a list of questions to ask the Administration. These questions often clarify the necessity of the expenditure. While many times, these items are straight forward, other times, they are not. Typically, the bulk of the questions will be asked by Councillors Mario Feldhoff, Randy Halyk and Corinne Scott.
On Monday, August 15th, the statement of Accounts was brought forward. For the first time it has come forward since October, 2007, not one Councillor had anything to question about it. Feldhoff was seen, prior to the meeting, asking his questions of Administration.
However, on Monday, September 19th, Councillor Halyk brought forth a trio of questions. The first regarded signs in the community, the second regarded Tax Refunds Overpayments and the third regarded an expensive purchase by the Fire Department which turned out to some of their Firefighting Equipment.
Councillor Mario Feldhoff found fault with the questioning. “In the spirit of suggestions made by our CAO some time ago, I had a few questions as well but I sent an email to our Treasurer and he was able to answer all my questions,” said Feldhoff. It was revealed Feldhoffs E-Mail also inquired about the Fire Equipment.
“Perhaps in the future, you could make sure that we all do that,” said Mayor Joanne Monaghan.
“I feel that some of these things are interesting enough that the community might want to hear about them and that’s why I’ll be asking the questions in Council,” said Halyk.
The Statement of Accounts is the bowl of brown M&Ms for the people of Kitimat. If Council is bringing forth the questions about the line items they find questionable, it shows they are doing their job.
While the ‘ritual’ of the Statement of Accounts is timely, by asking questions live on camera, Council shows the public they are looking after the taxpayer’s money and going over the figures. It means they are, therefore, accountable to the public.
If they choose to do this in a fashion, in which the public cannot witness what they are doing, the Council is no longer showing their accountability to the public. However, if they wish to forget this is an election year, that is their prerogative.
Much like the rockstar who uses checks and balances to ensure his contract is honoured, does Council