The New Brunswick government is tightening the rules on the province’s wastewater commissions after a scathing report from Auditor General Kim MacPherson last fall.
MacPherson’s report highlighted several problems of questionable spending at the Greater Moncton Sewerage Commission and the lengthy terms of several members.
MacPherson’s report questioned the office expenses of Ron LeBlanc, the commission's long-time chairman, his BlackBerry bill that averaged $550 a month, and the appropriateness of almost $90,000 worth of foreign travel by commission members within a three-year window.
'The amendments will also empower local decision-making and make the legislation easier to understand for commissioners and the public.' —Environment Minister Bruce Fitch
Environment and Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch introduced changes on Thursday that will deal with several aspects of auditor general’s report.
"We took the recommendations of the auditor general seriously and have brought forward comprehensive changes to add accountability and transparency to water and waste water commissions," Fitch said in a statement.
"The amendments will also empower local decision-making and make the legislation easier to understand for commissioners and the public."
LeBlanc had been chairman of the sewerage commission since 1983. He ended up stepping down in December.
The auditor general said all appointments to wastewater commissions should have term limits.
The report said the longest serving board members, for instance those who have served for 20 years or longer, should be "replaced immediately." And other board members who have been in office longer than the upcoming legislated term limits should also be replaced "as soon as practical."
A board member will now be appointed for a four-year term, which can be renewed up to three times.
So, a board member could still sit on a sewerage commission for 12 years.
Municipal and rural community councils can now appoint and remove their own members.
These boards must now submit annual budgets, financial statements and reports to communities and the provincial government.
There will also be requirements for annual general meetings that are open to the public.