Nova Scotia

AG audit finds ineffective oversight, management of Halifax Fire's inspection program

Halifax's auditor general, Evangeline Colman-Sadd, says improvements are needed to Halifax Fire's inspection program.

Halifax Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd has made 14 recommendations

Halifax Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd presented her report into Halifax Fire's inspection program to municipal council Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

Halifax's fire inspection program is inadequate and not being effectively managed, resulting in some building inspections falling years behind schedule, the municipality's auditor general has found in a new audit.

Evangeline Colman-Sadd made 14 recommendations in her 32-page report presented Wednesday to Halifax regional councillors, including creating detailed timelines for inspections and better training for inspection staff.

"Halifax Fire is not effectively overseeing and managing important aspects of the fire inspection program," Colman-Sadd said in her report. "Halifax Fire is not meeting its legislated fire inspection mandate."

The report noted that Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency has taken some steps to address the issue after senior management determined the existing system is not sustainable.

However, Colman-Sadd said detailed plans are still required to address the challenges that remain, including having a reliable and up-to-date list of buildings to inspect. 

"There is limited quality assurance and management monitoring of inspections, the report said.

Halifax Fire crews battle an apartment fire on St. Margaret's Bay road in December 2020. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Colman-Sadd's office reviewed 20 inspections of buildings that require an inspection every three years. Of those, only 11 were inspected on time. The other nine went between four and 17 years without an inspection, the report said.

While staff followed up on most violations identified during inspections, this was not done consistently in a timely matter.

Staffing, training

The auditor general said one of the biggest issues is staffing and training. More inspectors need to be hired and the training they need takes time.

"There was an indication that management does not believe they have enough adequate resources to inspect all of the buildings," said Colman-Sadd.

"However, as indicated in the report, management has not determined what resources they do need."

The report said Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency created fire inspector positions in 2019, in addition to its existing fire prevention officers. As of last month, there were eight fire inspectors whose sole job is to perform inspections.

Management has agreed to implement all 14 audit recommendations, noting that some work is already underway.

That includes the creation of a quarterly review process for all staff in the fire prevention division, and the addition of staff in the 2021-22 budget.