County of Wetaskiwin council moves ahead on efficiency audit

Intense debate Apr. 9 over how county’s efficiency should be reviewed

County of Wetaskiwin council decided at their regular meeting Apr. 9 to investigate an “efficiency audit” of one kind or another.

The agenda item was presented by CAO Rod Hawken, who noted this was the third report on council’s desire to see, in one form or another, a review on how efficient the municipality actually is.

“On March 12, 2019 at the request of Council, Mr. Dave Dittrick presented some options to Council for a review of the organization,” stated Hawken in his report to council.

“As outlined in the presentation by Mr. Dittrick, both Municipal Service Level Reviews and Municipal Service Capacity Reviews may be undertaken to support the strategic planning process. Municipal Service Level Reviews focus on the “what” – meaning the municipal services provided. It is important to note that a Service Level Review is not intended to grade the performance; rather, it is conducted in order to present to Council the Level of Services provided.

“Municipal Service Capacity Reviews focus on the “how” – meaning how the municipality goes about delivering municipal services. A Municipal Service Capacity Review arises from: 1. An identified need to examine the current organization to determine whether it has the capacity to deliver existing services. 2. Recognizing that addressing future needs is important, it is also recognized that it is important to understand where the municipality is today before it sets off to build for tomorrow. 3. Understanding that the current situation is the focus. This means determining whether the municipality has a team that “brings something to the table”, or whether changes can be made to achieve the desired results. Review of staffing focuses on skill sets, level (numbers) and cost in relation to service levels needed now and in the future.”

In his report Hawken included a number of variables affecting any such review.

“Potential Deliverables” included improve effectiveness, improve efficiency, improve responsiveness, identify cost savings (capital and operating), identify staffing numbers and training needs, identify staff capability assessment and identify accountability system needs.

“Typical Outcomes” included make a significant contribution to meeting Municipal Strategic Objectives, increasing efficiency and/or effectiveness in the delivery of municipal services, providing improved service delivery and/or organizational efficiency; and increase responsiveness of Administration to Council’s needs.

Hawken stated that council must decide the outcomes and methods to reach those outcomes before a request for proposals could be issued.

He mentioned council consider performance levels, as it’s difficult for staff to reach goals without those. Hawken said that currently the county has annual performance evaluations and if acceptable staff have a chance to go up the pay scale.

However, councilor Kathy Rooyakkers stated can’t define performance levels for staff, that’s the CAO’s job. Technically, council only has one employee, the CAO.

Councilor Bill Krahn said he felt council should be able to give input about what they observe and when they can see an opportunity for improved efficiency.

Councilor Dale Woitt said he was surprised benchmarks for the county hadn’t been developed over the years and pointed out there is a system for regular pay raises. Woitt stated councilors should be able to bring concerns about efficiency but the CAO should handle it from there.

Hawken repeated that he wasn’t sure what council was instructing him to do. “If council isn’t happy with a staff member, how do I resolve that?” he asked them.

Councilor Lyle Seely stated the outcomes listed in the report are good, and suggested a tender for a consultant who could provide advice on how to achieve them.

Councilor Josh Bishop made a motion to offer a tender for the deliverables noted in Hawken’s report with the goal of improving efficiency in the municipality.

Rooyakkers added, “We want to make sure we’re efficient.”

Reeve Terry Van de Kraats said he wanted to point out that in the time he’s been on council he’s seen many efficiency improvements brought into the organization.

Woitt added that he was confident in Hawken and his staff but just wanted to know more about how managers and staff are evaluated. “Bottom line, we want efficiency,” said Woitt.

The motion was passed by a 5 to 2 margin, with Van de Kraats and Krahn voting against.

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