Unfortunately, a majority of the Board of Trustees didn't support my previous motion for the creation of the Office of an Independent Auditor at the March 23rd, 2021 Board Meeting.
On Tuesday, April 13th as part of our annual budget process (see the distribution of funds report), I will be asking my colleagues to amend the budget to specifically set aside an additional $100,000 for the purpose of trustee initiated, independent third party audit.
This is separate from creating an independent auditor- instead, this is setting aside resources for audits. While some Trustees indicated they supported independent audit in principle, they were reluctant about creating a permanent, audit officer and thought instead that spot checks could be accomplished within current committees. This would provide those resources for these spot checks.
Good policy and governance transcend any individual elected official or administrator but instead look to independent, transparent, and verifiable processes. Currently, there is a lack of an independent reporting mechanism to the Board of Trustees, aside from the annual audit, which is minimal in scope. While I acknowledge that the Board of Trustees receives numerous reports and information from a variety of sources, very little of it is from an independent third party.
In my experience as a Trustee, we are at a great point in our governance. However, we must be mindful of enhancements and look for sources of continuous improvement. I can think of numerous previous and future examples where this could be an asset, including school closures, program placements, elimination, review of procurement processes, etc. Even if the consultant is a third party, the fact that it was selected by either the administration or the Board of Trustees has led to accusations of bias or interference in the experience.
Edmonton Public Schools embraces accountability as one of our cornerstone values. We have some of the most robust and transparent governance systems in Alberta, or Canada. We were the first to livestream our Board meetings (2010), and the first to appoint external members to our audit committee.
Enhanced public assurance and transparency are essential, especially in the tough economic times ahead for public education. The Edmonton Public School Board budget is over $1.2 billion dollars, operates hundreds of buildings, programs, and has large contracts for technology, transportation, and major projects.