Call to restart Brampton University audit ignored by City Council

Published May 17, 2023 at 12:42 pm

Brampton City Council has rejected pleas from the province’s municipal watchdog to restart scrapped investigations into the Brampton University project and shore up the City’s audit processes.

In a letter sent to council on May 8, Ontario’s Ombudsman called on Brampton to resurrect a review of the BramptonU project aimed at bringing post-secondary institutions to the city, as well as an audit of the City’s Request for Proposal (RFP) process.

The call follows a request from the Ombudsman last year for Brampton to adopt best practices with its audit department and for the City to finish any audits it starts.

Now, the Ombudsman is encouraging the City “to revisit its decision to cancel these audits and take steps to ensure any outstanding concerns are comprehensively investigated and addressed at the municipal level” and take steps to improve “accountability and transparency.”

The audits were cancelled last August in a motion by Mayor Patrick Brown before the work could be completed, but not before auditors said they found “a potential conflict of interest,” payments to consultants months before securing a request for proposal, and projects that were paid for that cannot be located under the BramptonU banner.

The Ombudsman’s office says it has received complaints due to the cancelled audits, and says Brampton is still not following recommended best practices laid out in a systemic review 2017 review of the City.

Recommendations from the Ombudsman include the appointment of an independent municipal Auditor General for the City to complete any audits it undertakes.

“As our Office has previously noted, it is vital that third-party investigators have real and perceived independence to conduct their work in a fair and impartial manner,” the letter reads. “Specifically, investigators should be given sufficient time and resources to conduct a fulsome investigation.”

But rather than accept the Ombudsman’s recommendations, council voted to send the findings of an earlier investigation into unproven complaints of workplace discrimination, bullying and misconduct by city officials to the City’s finance department to see if any costs from that matter can be recouped.

That investigation found there was no wrongdoing by then-Brampton Chief Administrative Officer David Barrick and other high-ranking officials in the areas of awarding contracts, discrimination, bullying and hiring practices, among others.

Only Coun. Martin Mederios and Pat Fortini voted to send the letter to the City’s audit department for consideration, while Brown, Coun. Michael Palleschi and Harkirat Singh railed against the Ombudsman letters and divisions on Bampton City Council in the last term.

Brown said he’d like to see an apology for “defamatory allegations” made in the earlier investigation but did not comment on the recommendations to restart the audits.

Work on BramptonU was paused during the audit, but staff were given the OK to restart the City’s work on university advocacy following a motion from Brown in November.

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