The B.C. government has moved to limit future financial watchdogs to a single term, at the same time as it accelerates the departure of current auditor general John Doyle.
Future auditors general will get one eight-year stint in the job, rather than renewable six-year terms, according to a bill introduced in the legislature Monday by Liberal house leader Mike de Jong.
That bill also allows the legislature to appoint an acting auditor to replace Doyle, who has accepted a new job in Australia after a heated dispute with the Liberal government over his bungled reappointment.
Doyle will leave his office by May 28, Speaker Bill Barisoff told the legislature Monday.
That’s months sooner than expected. Doyle had publicly vowed not to leave his post until October, even though he was slated to also start his Australia job in July.
The auditor general is an independent watchdog office charged with reviewing government spending and financial performance.
The proposed legislation closes a loophole that left the legislature unable to appoint an acting auditor until Doyle actually departed, said de Jong.
“Like the Pope, you can’t replace the auditor general until the auditor general is gone,” added NDP house leader John Horgan.
An all-party committee of MLAs will now have “a few more weeks” to find an acting replacement, before the May 14 provincial election, said de Jong.
It will be up to the next parliament to name a permanent successor.
De Jong said he’s “confident” the bill can pass before legislature breaks for the election on Thursday.
The NDP intend to support the legislation, said Horgan.
It’s unclear if the last-minute fix will ultimately sort out all the confusion surrounding Doyle’s departure.
It began late last year, when a Liberal-dominated committee of MLAs failed to unanimously agree to give Doyle a second term in office.
Critics accused the Liberal government of trying to push Doyle out of office, because of his frequently critical reports, scathing audit of financial mismanagement at the legislature, and high-profile court battle to gain access to confidential documents related to the sell off of B.C. Rail.
Doyle called the selection process “Mickey Mouse,” accused the committee chair of conflict of interest and questioned if MLAs knew what they were doing.
Premier Christy Clark intervened, offering Doyle a two-year extension and promising to limit future auditors to a single term.
But Doyle shot down the offer last month. He announced he’s taking the auditor general’s job in the State of Victoria, Australia, because it wasn’t tenable to stay in B.C. after his dispute with the Liberal government.
Doyle declined to comment on his departure date or the term-limit legislation Monday.