Spending time online
Many people are meticulous when it comes to keeping track of their own expenses — and they likely expect that same attention be used by elected officials with their tax dollars.
It could eventually become easier for residents to see just how local politicians are spending taxpayers’ money.
Staff at Kamloops City Hall is considering following Vancouver’s lead by posting online detailed council expenditures on a regular basis in a spreadsheet format.
“We’ve looked at what they’re [Vancouver staff] doing and are trying to assess how we would provide that level of information,” said Len Hrycan, the city’s director of community and corporate affairs, adding any system would be based on the limitations of the city’s own financial system.
He said there is no timeline on implementing the idea and any change needs to be discussed with council.
Vancouver is the first municipality in the province to make a detailed spreadsheet of expenses available online.
In Kamloops, council expenses are posted on the city’s website annually, but Hrycan said the numbers are also available upon request — something the media has asked for in the past.
City council has an annual expense budget of $50,000, with each councillor getting $5,000.
A sampling of councillors contacted by KTW indicates they have no problem with having detailed expenses posted online regularly.
Denis Walsh is open to the idea and feels council has nothing to hide.
“The more openness we have in government, the better,” he said, adding the topic could be discussed at a future council workshop.
Walsh said council as a whole does a good job of not being reckless with its expenses.
Marg Spina echoed Walsh’s sentiment, adding councillors are probably more careful with public money than with their own.
“I think transparency is important and we need to watch the budget we’re given the same way we would watch our home budget,” she said, noting a Kamloops councillor’s expense budget is much smaller than that of a Vancouver counterpart.
Mayor Peter Milobar has no problem with the idea, as long as it doesn’t use up a lot of staff time.
“I don’t think as a group we’re going wild and crazy with travel,” he said, noting he understands why residents want to know what council is doing with their money.
The last expense report online dates back to 2009, when council spent a total of $27,594 for the year.