City strengthens reporting of municipally-funded assets

·2 min read

The organizations responsible for oversight of big-ticket, municipally-funded Saint John assets like TD Station and the Canada Games Aquatic Centre will be adhering to an updated reporting policy, template and guidelines when submitting bi-annual reports, with the aim of providing consistent and transparent reporting.

The reporting policy upgrade for city agencies, boards and commissions – including those with oversight of the Saint John Transit Commission, Saint John police, the Saint John Trade and Convention Centre, and Lord Beaverbrook Rink – was presented to the city's growth committee Tuesday.

City funding to the six ABCs amounts to $36.3 million – or almost 23 per cent of the city's $157.3-million general fund operating budget in 2021, according to Tiffany Fawcett, the city's finance manager.

Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon called the new reporting policy more comprehensive. She said the report template, such as the section detailing the top risk an entity faces, or the section outlining key performance indicators, are important additions.

"I think it's incumbent upon us when we're giving out that cash to know what is actually happening with it and are we getting good value at the end of the day for what we're spending it on," Reardon said.

The updated reporting policy, which is reviewed every five years or as required, was approved by council members on July 26. It was established to encourage communication and to build on the understanding between ABCs and the City of Saint John to promote transparency. The reporting templates include key performance indicators, financial results, growth and operations, which ABCs must fill out.

It was also announced Tuesday that the Saint John Library, deemed an ABC in November, will follow the policy beginning in December.

In an interview, Coun. David Hickey, who, in 2020, slammed the Saint John police board for its two-page, semi-annual report that lacked sufficient details, said the new reporting system is a step in the right direction toward ensuring reporting structures are transparent.

"(The policy) will offer us the ability to make sure that we are doing the best job of stewarding taxpayers' dollars when you're talking about really significant budgets," he said.

"What we ran into last year ... when we got these semi-annual reports from ABCs, it was clear a police department, with a $26-million budget, two pages wasn't enough."

Coun. Joanna Killen, who chairs the growth committee, said the city's reporting structure has come a long way in helping to standardize the process.

"I think that this reporting is really great to try and standardize it as best they can while still allowing those organizations to be as unique as they are," she said. "They've come leaps and bounds from where things used to be."

Robin Grant, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Telegraph-Journal

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