Asking for the information we need

Previously in this blog, I discussed an issue that came up at a recent committee meeting – one that was also reported extensively in the media.

At issue was a report recommending the hiring of additional staff in our Finance Department.  The report looked at the staffing levels in seven other municipalities.  This review revealed that our staffing levels were low in comparison.

A question was raised – although not quite in this way – as to whether this was a representative sample of municipalities.  Could we trust the conclusions? As I previously noted, this is a fair question.  One way to address this concern is to look at a broader group of municipalities and see if you come to the same conclusion.

That work had been done thanks to the initiative of the Chair of the committee, Councillor June Hofland, and our CFO.  I have attached the results of that work. 

In a nutshell, the seven municipalities selected by our consultant and CFO are a representative sample and Guelph is staffed at a lower level than other municipalities.  This supplemental benchmarking lends credence to other comparative work using these seven municipalities that was included in the original report – comparative work that would have been too costly to have done for all of the municipalities.

You might say “so what?” which is also a fair comment. We shouldn’t hang our hat on this comparative analysis.  This is only one piece of information that Council should review when considering the request for additional staff.  There was a full report with a needs analysis.

There is a world of difference between wanting assurance that a particular group of municipalities is a representative sample and jumping to the conclusion that staff and the consultant have deliberatively “cherry-picked” their selection – in this case, that is particularly true given the facts.

suppplemental benchmarking

About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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3 Comments on “Asking for the information we need”

  1. Jim Grant Says:

    So the final question and the most important one, is do we need extra help and if so, then justify whatever positions are required and fill those needs. To this I would have no problem supporting.
    I wish we would stop asking and paying for outside opinions on what we already know. It smacks of people trying to justify their jobs instead of just doing it.

  2. kfarbridge Says:

    Jim, I have been musing on your post. I think it sums up exactly what was wrong about what happened at the committee.

    One piece of data (dollars managed per staff) dominated the discussion. Yet, this data was just a TINY part of the comprehensive operational review. It could have even been ignored while focussing on the remainder of the report.

    The Finance Department provides services to all City departments. The operational review included extensive interviews with internal stakeholders to identify gaps, weaknesses, risks, liabilities, inefficiencies and waste in our current system of financial management. No discussion.

    The operational revliew included extensive interviews with the Finance departments of seven municipalities to understand their organizational structure, the resources and technologies they employ, the services they provide and, most critically, why. No discussion.

    The operational review provided rationale for performance-based budgeting, enterprise risk management, internal auditing, integration of operating and capital budgets, among other recommendations, to enhance the financial management, efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and transparency of the City. No discussion.

    I believe members of Council want to have this discussion. They better – it is their job.

  3. Jim Grant Says:

    Karen – Thank you. If I may take this a little further then:
    You have just come off the campaign trail. You heard many Guelphites say what they thought about the city and it needs. I agree it may not include a silent majority and that is a shame. However, you are about to spend $36,000 for a 600 person survey. How do you think this will be anymore accurate of the so called silent majority then the election campaigning completed by all of you, including many volunteers like myself.
    I do not see this as a wise spend of tax money nor would I put anymore value to it than what we already know.

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