City Governance Agenda moving forward
Ottawa - Today the City released three reports on the next steps in improving accountability at City Hall and renewing the City’s Advisory Committees. These reports will be addressed at a special Joint Meeting of the Governance Renewal Sub-Committee and the Finance and Economic Development Committee on July 6, 2012.
One report recommends the establishment of an Integrity Commissioner to oversee and help establish the upcoming Code of Conduct, Expense Policy and Gifts Registry for Members of Council; the second proposes recommendations on the creation of a Lobbyist Registry that address the issues raised at the December 1, 2011 Governance Renewal Sub-Committee meeting; and the third recommends a revitalized structure for the City’s Advisory Committees to make it more effective for both citizen volunteers and elected officials.
“In the 2010 election I made a commitment to the people of Ottawa that we would make City Hall more accountable through greater openness and transparency,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “The concrete initiatives outlined in these reports move us forward towards achieving that goal and I intend to ask my council colleagues for their support.”
In December 2010, City Council approved the development of a new accountability framework calling for the posting of expenses online as well as future steps to create a lobbyist registry; an Integrity Commissioner and direction to staff to review and make recommendations for a more effective Advisory Committee structure and operations, among other measures.
Unlike both the federal and provincial governments, the City of Ottawa does not currently have a lobbyist registry or Integrity Commissioner to oversee the day-to-day relationships between government and the private sector. Further, staff is recommending that the forthcoming Code of Conduct, Expense Policy and Gifts Registry would benefit from the Integrity Commissioner’s involvement at the outset.
“Other levels of government have shown that the role of an Integrity Commissioner can provide a valuable service to the community,” said the Mayor. “We have not had the problems that some cities have had, but an ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure.”
The recommended changes to the proposed Lobbyist Registry address the key issues arising from the December 1, 2011 Governance Renewal Sub-Committee meeting. Specifically, the difference between advocacy work and lobbying is more clearly defined, advocacy activities carried out by not-for-profit groups would not need to be registered, lobbyists will only be required to register lobbying activities, and lobbying activities are more precisely defined. There would be no dual disclosure, but Members of Council and staff would be required to review the Registry monthly to ensure that instances where they were lobbied are recorded.
The renewal of the Advisory Committee structure is another important pillar of the commitment to better governance and more openness. Currently, there are 15 advisory committees with 7-15 members. Despite the hard work of these individuals, there has, unfortunately, developed a lack of coordination between the work of these Committees, and the work of City Council. This disconnect has grown significantly as more people choose to get involved through social media and other non-traditional forums.
“We have heard from all corners that our Advisory Committee structure and processes were just not functioning,” said Mayor Watson. “City Staff have met with those currently involved, as well as looking at best practices elsewhere and I believe that this new Advisory Committee structure will be more engaging and allow volunteers to be and feel more valued by the City, and to more effectively provide input to their elected representatives.”
The reports on the Lobbyist Registry and the Integrity Commissioner will be considered by the special Joint Meeting of the Governance Renewal Sub-Committee and the Finance and Economic Development Committee on July 6, 2012 for recommendation to City Council at their July 11, 2012 meeting. The report recommending a renewal for the Advisory Committee structure will be tabled at the Special Meeting for consideration and receiving public delegations at a further special Joint Meeting of the Governance Renewal Sub-Committee and the Finance and Economic Development Committee, to be held on August 30, 2012.