City of Gatineau 2021 Annual report
Gatineau Auditor General Report highlights outdated snow removal policy, discusses future of telework, and poor management of Covid business support funds
The annual reports highlight that the current snow removal policy used by the city of Gatineau is from 2006. The population of Gatineau has increased with many new developments since that time.
“I have noted that the City’s 2006 snow removal policy is outdated and is not supported by appropriate directives and procedures. The current policy is not adapted to the climate or to the mobility needs of citizens,” states Johanne Beausoleil, Auditor General of the City of Gatineau.
Compared to other cities of similar size, the wait time to clear priority roads or sidewalks is significantly longer. According to the report, the wait time to clear a priority sidewalk is normally between four and six hours, whereas in Gatineau the time is 24 hours. The budget does not take into account the actual cost of operations nor does it have reserve funds for exceptional winter conditions. It also does not take into consideration the impact of climate change, which has led to an increased frequency of ice storms, for example.
In terms of quality control, the snow removal is monitored by the foreman or technician in charge of the team or area through subcontracts. There is no systematic process for inspecting or evaluating the quality of snow removal. Periphery sectors sometimes have less equipment per total mileage due to equipment distribution and this leads to longer snow removal times.
Snow removal costs per citizen in Gatineau are below the similar cities by about 15%. The City recorded the largest increase in these costs compared to other major cities in Quebec, a 68% increase between 2012 and 2019.
The Public Works Service has little information to map decision-making processes. Currently, the City relies on the experience of existing teams and history of precipitation to plan snow removal.
Among other recommendations, the Auditor General recommended updating the Snow Removal Policy, taking into account the needs of residents and the climate. The policy review started in November 2021 and should be complete by May 31, 2023. Beausoleil also recommends addressing the environmental impacts of road salts in the plan and creating policies to mitigate these impacts.
Leave, attendance and telework
The Office of the Auditor General conducted an audit on the management of pay and benefits. They found that the management of pay and benefits was not completely effective and efficient and resulted in some non-compliance with legislation and regulations. Recommendations were issued and action plans along with timelines were prepared by Human Resources (HR). In April 2022, HR was to complete the implementation of parts of the action plan.
“Attendance management practices have changed rapidly to adapt to telework, as office attendance no longer measures the performance of the employee. It seems clear to me that attendance and in-person work will have to be adjusted on an ongoing basis,” said Beausoleil. Effective implementation of telework will also require managers to have access to the right tools to manage their people efficiently and ensure a continuous and adequate level of service to citizens.”
Managers state that they are concerned that it will be impossible to return to work practices that were in place pre-pandemic. A survey of city employees in October 2020 indicated that 76% of respondents would like to do three or more days of telework if possible in the future. Many respondents said the reason they preferred working from home was personal and, according to the report, “did not take into account professional performance.”
The report states that, during the pandemic, managers adopted a more flexible approach to work hours due to the urgency of the situation and the resulting personal challenges. Data shows that there was a 20% reduction in sick leave. The report notes that greater rigour will be required post-pandemic.
Poor Management of business aid programs during COVID
To help businesses cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Economy and Innovation (MEI) put in place the assistance programs emergency aid to small and medium-sized enterprises (PAUPME) and aid to enterprises in regions on maximum alert (AERAM). ID Gatineau was the representative for these programs for Gatineau and MEI gave them a budget of $8,143,139 for both programs.
The annual report details various issues with the management of the program and how the funds are distributed. To apply, businesses had to send the application and required documents by email. The annual report highlights that this was an inefficient process as the emails could have been rejected by the Gatineau servers due to size or unintentionally deleted without a trace, as there was not an automated application numbering system put in place. According to the report the approval and rejection of an application lacked a formal verification or quality assurance process.
The report highlights key recommendations to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and uniformity of the process for business approval for grants. ID Gatineau must have clear criteria and must establish mechanisms that promote consistent treatment of applications for financial assistance as well as proper documentation of the processes.
The Gatineau 2021 annual report was released on August 30. The report was written by Johanne Beausoleil, Auditor General of the City of Gatineau. The Auditor General is responsible for auditing the city and their organizations and reporting the findings to city officials and citizens. Their findings and recommendations provide an accurate picture of the City’s management of their assets and activities. These findings and recommendations are outlined in the annual report.