B.C. watchdogs call on enhanced Legislative Assembly accountability and transparency

B.C. watchdogs call on enhanced Legislative Assembly accountability and transparency

File photo.

File photo.

A joint letter from B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, Ombudsperson, and Merit Commissioner is calling on greater oversight on the Legislative Assembly’s administration.

In their letter to Speaker Darryl Plecas and members of the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC), the three independent officers outlined proposed statutory changes to increase transparency and accountability.

The changes include:

  • Revisions to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act so that it applies to the Legislative Assembly. The letter states over 2,900 public bodies are currently covered by this Act.
  • Amendments to BC’s not yet in force Public Interest Disclosure Act, to have it apply to the Legislative Assembly. The Act is expected to come into force later this year for government ministries and independent statutory offices. Under the Act, employees can report wrongdoing either within their organization or to the Ombudsperson and are protected from reprisal for doing so.
  • Revisions to the Public Service Act to provide the Merit Commissioner the mandate to conduct an independent audit of staffing appointments to and within the administration of the Legislative Assembly. The letter also calls for the ability of the Merit Commissioner to conduct reviews of processes leading to any just cause dismissals of administration staff.

The letter states, “There is an opportunity to enact a modern transparency and accountability framework for the administrative aspects of the Legislative Assembly.”

The joint letter is signed by Information and Privacy Commissioner Michael McEvoy, Merit Commissioner Fiona Spencer and Ombudsperson Jay Chalke.

The officers say a new framework, over time, will restore public confidence to the public institution.

They say the proposed changes are “worthwhile and timely” and emphasize they are being made regardless of the outcome concerning two suspended senior officers of the legislature.

A report by Plecas released by the LAMC alleges spending abuses by the clerk of the legislature Craig James and sergeant-at-arms Gary Lenz, who were suspended in November while a police investigation is underway.

The independent officers said the changes are to build on the current audit being carried out by B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer, who said says she’ll keep the public informed with regular reports as she goes through the process over about a year.

Bellringer said she’s been assured of full co-operation by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee and will be looking to its members for direction about the scope of the audit.

Both men have denied the allegations, calling them completely false and untrue, and said in a statement after the report was released that they’ll provide a detailed response to the claims.

With files from The Canadian Press.


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