Nova Scotia

Auditor general says Halifax has weak oversight of municipal vehicle usage

Halifax's auditor general told an audit committee on Wednesday that neither the city nor Halifax Water is properly monitoring the use of vehicles by employees. The review did not include the police or fire departments.

'As long as management isn't monitoring, that risk exists and it is something that should be monitored'

Halifax Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd says neither the city nor Halifax Water managers insist on the lowest-cost option when it comes to mileage or car allowances for employees who use their own vehicles. (Robert Short/CBC)

Halifax's auditor general told an audit committee on Wednesday that neither the city nor Halifax Water is properly monitoring the use of vehicles by employees.

Auditors looked at the use of light-duty vehicles within the municipality and the water utility, but the review did not include the police or fire departments.

According to the report, the lack of monitoring increases the risk that vehicles could be used inappropriately, although analysis of GPS data did not indicate significant abuse.

"We looked at it and we didn't see much evidence of people using fleet vehicles for personal use, but as long as management isn't monitoring, that risk exists and it is something that should be monitored," said Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd.

Her report included eight recommendations for improvements, such as checking for inappropriate use of vehicles and updating the fleet-use policy. The city and Halifax Water agreed to implement the recommendations.

Coun. Lorelei Nicoll said she gets calls from residents when they see HRM vehicles parked in private driveways.

Coun. Matt Whitman says he's surprised some of the report's recommendations aren't already in place. (CBC)

"They want to know, is it necessary? Why are they using it for personal use? And then it has to be looked into," said Nicoll.

The auditor general's report also said neither the city nor Halifax Water managers insist on the lowest-cost option when it comes to mileage or car allowances for employees who use their own vehicles. That means over a two-year period, the city paid $62,000 more than it should have, while Halifax Water paid $81,000 more.

"Some of these recommendations are things I thought were already in place and I'm kind of shocked to see that they aren't," said Coun. Matt Whitman.

Colman-Sadd also pointed out that 63 of Halifax Water's 125 light-duty fleet vehicles were used less than 50 per cent of the time. She said the utility needs to do a review and see if all the vehicles are needed.

"Obviously, there are going to be some that have equipment in them, but this is about how you deploy your resources," said Colman-Sadd.

The review did not look at the use of Halifax Regional Police or Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency vehicles. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The auditor general does a follow-up review 18 months after a report has been tabled to check on whether recommendations have been implemented. Members of the audit and finance committee want city managers to provide an update on their progress in six months.

"No wonder things take so long," said Coun Steve Adams.

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