Municipal Monitor Q1 2017 | Page 13

Cover Story

“ Very few complained about the value or need to do reporting , they just struggle in seeing the utility of it .”

would support a more forward-thinking approach ,” said Wingrove .
In fact , 48 per cent of respondents said provincial reporting requirements are impacting their ability to productively offer services at the municipal level . It ’ s a finding that AMCTO calls “ alarming .”
Oliver Jerschow , director of municipal finance policy at the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs , agreed that reporting warrants discussion . He applauded AMCTO for preparing its report and for taking different methodological approaches to understand the burden .
“ The municipal sector in Ontario is very diverse ,” he said . “ I think the report acknowledges that by looking at how municipalities of different sizes see the reporting burden issue . Across the municipal sector , the financial and staff capacity varies significantly and that has to be taken into consideration when determining what the province asks of the municipal sector .”
Jerschow added that in order to assess the report ’ s value , the problem must first be understood .
“ What do we mean by reporting burden ? Which reports are we talking about ? What makes the reports burdensome ? I think one thing that ’ s important for that report to acknowledge , and I think it does , is that there are a lot of important reasons to have reporting .”
He said the reports themselves are not necessarily the problem . Rather , the focus should be on the time it takes to complete them and the fact that municipalities don ’ t know how the information is being used .
However , Jerschow noted that reporting is a fact of government life .
“ The AMCTO report has a bit of an implication that reporting is taking time away from ‘ real ’ public service ,” he said . “ I would say , as a public servant , that accountability to citizens and taxpayers is a part of public service . It may not be the most fun part of the job , but I do think it ’ s important . That has to be acknowledged as well .”
While some municipal reports stem from the federal government and are simply routed through the province , reporting serves different functions , according to Jerschow .
“ Who ’ s asking for it , for what purpose , and to achieve what goals ? I think the better we understand that universe , the more we can focus in on where improvements should be made .”
He agreed with AMCTO that a list summarizing municipal reporting obligations would be helpful . “ That ’ s going to need some ongoing work . Reports get requested from different bodies for different reasons .”
The creation and maintenance of such a list is only one of the AMCTO report ’ s recommendations .
“ The recommendations for the province are as constructive as possible ,” said Johal . “ We ’ d like a bit more standardization on effective means of reporting , and better use of technology along with more communication on why the reporting is needed . Can municipalities gain access to data ? Does it have public value or utility ?”
Municipalities agreed they have room to improve their data collection techniques .
“ We are trying to compel government to very seriously look at this reporting burden ,” said Johal . “ This is inherently an advocacy matter for us . In other sectors , this matter is couched as being ‘ red tape ’ or ‘ waste .’ We ’ re not using those terms , but this is inherently about government efficiency and the optimization of resources put towards public use .”
While AMCTO hopes its report will inspire the province to examine its reporting structure and initiate improvements , Jerschow said more exploration will be needed to further define municipal reporting responsibilities .
“ We ’ re prepared to continue the dialogue and work with associations like AMCTO to seek out areas of improvement ,” he said . “ It ’ s an issue that needs to be addressed . The AMCTO report will be a helpful contribution to that conversation .”
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