Victoria-Esquimalt policing faces performance audit

Victoria’s policing agreement with Esquimalt could soon come under scrutiny of B.C.’s new auditor general for local government.

Local government performance in managing policing agreements and police budget oversight is one of three planned performance audits announced by Basia Ruta.

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Victoria is one of six cities considered for the audit along with Port Alberni, Surrey, Merritt, Williams Lake and New Westminster.

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins hopes any review doesn’t delay the mediation process now underway between her municipality and Victoria over policing.

“Haven’t we studied ourselves enough to death? We have studied it, and we need to be able to just get on with it,” she said.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin said he is looking forward to getting more information about what is planned.

“I’m not exactly sure what the process is or why this is happening, other than there’s perhaps a provincewide interest to take a look at the cost of policing,” he said.

“Generally, it’s never bad to take a look at what you’re doing.”

Esquimalt and Victoria police services were amalgamated by provincial order in 2003. But the township has never been happy with the arrangement, and after years of complaining about rising costs, slow response times and poor service by Victoria police, Esquimalt put out a call in March 2011 for new police service.

It eventually chose a new contract with the RCMP, but that decision was overturned by the province, forcing the town to work out a new deal with Victoria police. The parties are still in mediation, Desjardins said.

The position of auditor general for local government was created last year, and Ruta was appointed in November 2012. Her office is focusing on performance audits — not financial ones — and will provide recommendations on economy, efficiency and effectiveness.

The other two audit topics include: achieving value for money in operational procurement, which will involve performance audits of Vernon, Delta, Revelstoke, Comox Valley Regional District, Fraser-Fort George Regional District and West Vancouver, and local government capital procurement projects and asset management programs involving Cranbrook, Rossland, Sechelt, North Vancouver, Dawson Creek and Campbell River.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

— With a file from Jeff Bell

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