Audit into Richmond County council expenses going ahead
Issue was defeated in tied vote in December
Richmond County councillors voted unanimously Tuesday night to move ahead with a forensic audit of council travel and other expenses incurred over the past five years. It’s a reversal from last fall when a routine random check of business expenses over a four-month period by the municipality’ s auditors, Grant Thornton, turned up charges for such things as airline ticket changes for a spouse, valet parking and liquor store charges.
A reimbursement for alcoholic purchases isn’t permitted by policy.
In December the motion seeking a forensic audit was denied when councillors chose sides and it resulted in a tied vote, killing the motion.
Steve Sampson, who served as warden for two years following the 2012 election, voted against the idea of an expensive forensic audit when it was first brought before council.
At the time he didn’t believe it was warranted because of the cost and the fact the municipal- ity’s auditors had made 20 recommendations to improve the level of transparency when filing municipal business expenses.
On Wednesday he said he voted for the forensic audit because, “it is not so much a changing of my mind as it is maybe trying to appease everyone at the table as we try to get back to work at the job we’re elected to do.”
He said persistent “rumours and innuendo” in the community spread mostly through social media about possible criminal activity taking place were also factors in his decision to seek a forensic audit.
Although it hasn’t been formally decided, Sampson said he expects Grant Thornton would undertake the forensic audit because the accounting firm is most knowledgeable of the council expense issue.
The provincial Ombudsman’s Office has also launched investigation after residents complained of improper spending by councillors and senior staff a couple of months ago.
It’s unclear how long the review by the Ombudsman’s Office will take.
Council has already voted to implement recommendations from its auditor, including posting all travel expenses online.