Friday, October 25, 2013

City posts travel guidelines to website, but no details on travel spending

City staff has responded quickly to a request from Councillor Ashley for more information on the city's travel policies.

At the October 15th  council session, the councillor had asked staff to provide a little bit of background on the city's travel policy, so as to give residents an idea as to what guidelines the city's elected representatives operate under when they travel.

The information flow was posted to the City website this week and featured two items for our review, the Travel and Per Diem Guide and the City's Policy page on Travel and Per Diem Rates.

Information which basically explains the city's travel policy, the remuneration rates and delivers other ancillary information regarding travel by Council members on city business.

However, if residents were hoping to find itemized accounts, providing background as to how much was spent and on what particular item, they will be rather disappointed. As at this time, it appears that any kind of data base of expenses is not to be part of this phase of the information delivery process.

As we examined on the blog last week, some communities in British Columbia and Canada are moving towards more transparent accounting on spending by their civic councils.

In particular we highlighted the City of Toronto's helpful website which provides comprehensive review of municipal spending. The Toronto site, perhaps the Cadillac of information delivery for municipalities in the country. One that many other communities may wish to review for some suggestions.

The theme of more transparency and towards providing more information to the public has found some proponents in British Columbia as well.

This week Port Coquitlam City Council outlined some of the changes it is considering when it comes to expense disclosures, a shift in direction that may soon allow residents in that community to review it's council members expenses every month.

That community would it seem be planning on modelling their approach somewhat to that already in place in Vancouver, where the City of Vancouver features what it calls an Open Data Catalogue, which features a number of options for residents to review.

While the posting of travel guidelines is a good first step for the City of Prince Rupert, there is clearly much work ahead for a truly transparent and readily accessible format to review spending from council.

Checking in with the elected officials in Port Coquitlam on their progress towards that goal, may help provide Prince Rupert with a template for use in the not too distant future.

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