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Integrity, Openness and Transparency

Posted in Talking Politics

Published on July 07, 2014 with No Comments

Within my first 100 days in office, I will put in place a package of reforms to help restore public trust in the offices of the Mayor, Councillors and other senior officials at the City of Brampton.

Reforms will address:

A. The State of Brampton’s Finances & Need for Transparency
B. Expense policies of both Council and Senior Officials
C. Code of Conduct/Lobbyist Registry/Integrity Commissioner/Conflict of Interest
Public trust is the underlying principle upon which public office is based. Those who are elected are servants of the public with a duty to be worthy of that public trust. Voters expect transparency and accountability from their leaders.

I believe that government officials are obligated to advance the public interest, not private interests. Under my leadership, we will implement a plan that raises the bar for our municipal leaders at City Hall and meets the transparency and accountability expectations of the citizens of Brampton.

A. The State of Brampton’s Finances & A Need for Transparency

Taxpayers deserve to know how city leadership is spending their tax dollars. I will follow best practices as set out by other similarly sized municipalities and implement policies that will ensure that details regarding the City’s finances are available and clear to all residents of Brampton.

There is evidence that City Council does not know the full status of more than $700 million budgeted to fund a variety of city projects. The incomplete work includes road widenings, bridge refurbishments, sound barriers and community centres.

There also appears to be a systemic issue in how budgets are publicly reported and what materials are shared with Council. There have been warning signs for some time – in January the C.D. Howe Institute report listed Brampton’s budget as among the most inaccurate in a comparison with 24 similarly sized cities across Canada.

In order to address these and other concerns with the City’s finances, I will take the following actions:
1. Call in external auditors to review the books in order to give residents, businesses and Council some clarity regarding the true status of Brampton’s finances.
2. Adopt budgeting methods that are consistent with a long-term financial strategy and ensure that future budgets reflect goals defined in our long-term financial plan.
3. Build up adequate balances in reserve funds to support risk management and long-term financial planning, and to mitigate extraordinary changes to our tax base.
4. Address concerns with the City’s RFP process used to award the contract for the development of City Hall by developing a clear and transparent procurement policy that will meet the needs of City staff while respecting taxpayers.
5. Ensure that Bramptonians have ample opportunity to provide input to the budget process.
6. Once approved, ensure that the budget is available online, and that it is presented in a clear and concise manner so there is greater transparency in the budgeting process.

B. Expense Policies of both Council and Senior Officials

The Mayor, Councillors and all senior city staff should not be exempt from public review of their city-issued credit cards and expenses. It is particularly important that citizens are aware of how their taxes are being spent.

As your mayor, I will require all travel and hospitality expenses for all elected officials, their staff and senior management to be posted online every quarter and I will implement third party oversight. This is a standard practice with other governments and has proven to be an effective measure to ensure the public has faith in its municipal officials. Furthermore in 2016, I will initiate a regular review of these processes to ensure that things are working properly and have it vetted by outside experts.

C. Code of Conduct/Lobbyist Registry/Integrity Commissioner/Conflict of Interest
As the 9th largest city in Canada, Brampton’s leadership must demonstrate the level of integrity that the people of Brampton expect and deserve.

Maintaining public trust requires meeting a much broader standard – compliance must not only be complete, but be seen to be complete. I believe it is in the public interest to take the following steps:
1. Establish a lobbyist registry within the City Clerk’s Office that is updated on a regular basis and available to the public online. All lobbying activities with elected officials would be registered.
2. Introduce a gift registry for all staff and elected officials.
3. Appoint a full time independent Municipal Integrity Commissioner that provides reports to council and has the power to investigate, enforce and issue penalties for infractions of city integrity guidelines.
4. Establish rigid criteria for sole source contracts with real-time online reporting of contract issuance and justification.
5. Ban all city-funded promotional advertising by elected officials in an election year.
6. Create a more user-friendly City of Brampton website to ensure the public can better access information. Changes will include greater transparency around council votes, decisions and attendance.
7. Adopt a new council and staff code of conduct that clarifies guidelines for the acceptance of gifts and Council’s responsibilities regarding conflicts of interest.
Why My Plan is Important
Transparency and accountability in government must be more than a commitment to better inform the public; it is a way of doing business that builds the public trust. Strong ethical leadership is necessary to shape the culture of City Hall, which is particularly important as our city grows and the challenges we face become more complex. It is crucial that we have the right rules, guidelines and systems in place to ensure our leaders discharge their responsibilities in a way that reflects the values of our community. Brampton has been lagging behind other similar sized cities and my recommendations will make our City a leader in accountability, integrity and transparency.

On October 27th you can choose change for a better Brampton.


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