OC Transpo scheduling is "less efficient" and "more costly" after the arbitration that followed the bus strike of 2009-10, according to the auditor general's reports released this afternoon.

Auditor General Alain Lalonde released his 2011 annual reports to the city's audit sub-committee Thursday with a series of recommendations that said the city could save more than $800,000 per year.

The City of Ottawa quickly released 12 news releases arguing and defending some of the audit's findings.

One statement on OC Transpo scheduling claimed the audit was conducted during a rough period at OC Transpo and scheduling has now improved.

Lalonde also focused his criticism on the city's communications and jobs.

He said the city's communications department, which included 51 employees making a total of $4 million at the time of the audit, lacks "strategic direction and clear mandates." There were also 20 employees with communications duties in other various departments making more than $1 million total.

Currently, there are 42 employees in the city's communications department, city officials said.

The auditor general also said OC Transpo has been "inconsistent" in the communication of cancelled bus trips. OC Transpo has created a Twitter account to inform the public about cancelled bus routes.

21 jobs vacant for 2 years

Other areas of criticism included a $4 million snow-hauling contract the auditor general said was "sole-sourced." He believed the city could cut costs by 17 per cent by sending out a request for proposals.

He also said 21 positions worth $1.8 million per year went vacant for two years or more that were not reported to city council, which is required.

There were also 100 additional full-time positions that went vacant for more than two years, Lalonde reported, which city staff argued included some summer jobs and other positions that are filled by employees currently on leave.

After the report was released, city manager Kent Kirkpatrick said staffing would be improved by executive management oversight of corporate staffing levels, including the tracking of vacancies, overtime and "gapping."

In five of the six follow-up audits, Lalonde said he saw "significant progress" and staffing was the only area with "gradual" improvement.

Lalonde worked for the federal government before becoming the city's auditor general in 2004.

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