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Equity process ‘not fully effective’ in the selection of 2021 Calgary recreation projects: City auditor

Calgary’s auditor is recommending the city create a formalized process for ensuring equitable decisions are made in building future ad-hoc recreation infrastructure.

A report coming to the city’s audit committee Thursday focused on an ad-hoc process around six recreation infrastructure investments made in June 2021. Those investments were part of an additional $154 million spend outside of the four-year budget cycle for infrastructure to address service gaps, aging recreation facilities and underserved areas.

The report showed Calgary Recreation’s processes to select equitable investments “were not fully effective.”

“While equity of geographical access was included as an informal input in identifying infrastructure opportunities, the ad hoc process and lack of consistency supporting the prioritization process that led to the six investment opportunities to be presented to Council, creates a risk that the investments presented for approval may not maximize The City’s progress towards increased equity of service provision,” the auditor’s report read.

Calgary recreation did have to meet a three-week deadline so the investments could be provided to council’s June 2021 meeting.

The auditor’s report indicated that although equity was an underlying principle, the ad hoc process lacked supporting documents showing it was part of the criterion.

Audit committee chair, Ward 6 Coun. Richard Pootmans, said that he believes the last council was, in fact, looking at equity when they got involved in the decision-making process.

He said the auditor’s report, however, has some valuable findings.

“I think it’s moving away from ad hoc decision making to data-based and evidence-driven decisions,” Pootmans said.

Auditor recommendations

The report showed that the investment selection criteria for these investments weren’t defined, measured or ranked.

“Business cases and their ranking were not prepared for three of the six investments,” the document read.

“The process and rationale for the investment scenario options and subsequent investment selection and prioritization were not documented.”

One other aspect highlighted in the auditor’s report was that while Calgary Recreation reports on several indicators related to equity, there are no targets. That data also doesn’t directly impact the selection of new rec investments.

Three recommendations came from the auditor’s report.

First, it would like a defined process for selecting capital projects outside of the city’s four-year budget cycle.  They also want to see the city implement quantifiable equity criteria into infrastructure investments.  Lastly, the auditor’s report calls for defined roles to support the project selection process.

Coun. Pootmans said this is an important step as the city goes through its realignment process.

“If you start going off one ad hoc piece at a time, you’re probably not optimizing the investment that needs to be done citywide,” he said.

“If you’re looking for equity spread across the city over time, you need a process.”

The auditor’s report is calling for the recommendations to be in place by mid to late 2023.