04 April 2016

Incompetence at city hall costs taxpayers #nlpoli

St. John's city council is in serious trouble.

They may not realise it yet.  Indeed, many residents of the capital may not realise it, but city council has made a series of decisions that residents will pay for.

They are all related to the budget.  While many of them lay at the feet of the finance committee, chaired by Jonathan Galgay, the whole council must bear responsibility for both the bad decisions but also for the deception that has surrounded them.

Take as an example of deception the "early retirement" of a bunch of managers.  They aren't actually retiring early. Rather, they will continue to accumulate benefits but just won't be working while they do so.  Citizens are - in effect - paying two people to do the same job.

The city should have let the individuals work out their contract and then replaced them, as the jobs became available.  The city should have used a competitive process to find replacements for these senior managers.  Instead, it appears that council appointed their replacements.  There is nothing open and transparent about the entire affair.

You can see the sign of both problems and deceit in the recent announcement that the city will slash  public service for snow clearing and road maintenance.

The deceit:  Mayor Dennis O'Keefe - back from his annual publicly funded junket to Florida -  told reporters the city is facing declining revenues, thus the cuts were necessary.  The city actually increased taxes in the current budget and front-loaded capital works spending.  That latter bit works effectively as a boost to private sector companies.  The slash to public service was an integral part of the budget that facilitated council's decision to push more money to the private sector.

The problems:  city staff apparently didn't assess the impact on cost and safety of the layoffs.  Reducing staff by one third without decreasing performance expectations or enhancing productivity will mean that each worker will have to do much more work.  They will inevitably have to do overtime.  The repalcement city staff didn't assess the actual cost of that overtime in comparison to the existing budget. Nor did the new staff assess the impact working fewer staff for longer hours will have on fatigue and injury.

The whole thing looks like a very hasty decision taken to cover off problems resulting from a hastily compiled budget.

And if those things were bad enough,  Galgay will introduce as motion to freeze salaries at city hall. That pretty much confirms that Galgay and his cronies are making things up as they go along.  Freezing salaries comes only after the revelation that so many city staff are earning salaries well outside the norm for public sector jobs in the province.  There was no talk of it before, just as there was no sign that anyone on city council kept an eye on compensation trends at city hall that got them into the problem with pay and benefits out of whack with norms.

St. John's city council has huge problems.

Incompetence on city council is going to hit taxpayers in their wallets.

The question now is whether taxpayers will hit back at the ballot box next year.