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City accountability officers - roles

29-May-2010 by Belinda Cole [198]

• 2009 lay summary of the roles of the Auditor General, Ombud, Auditor, Lobbying.

The provincial law that "created" the City of Toronto with the powers it currently possesses is the City of Toronto Act, 2006 (the "Act"). This law or Act calls for the appointment of 3 "Accountability Officers" and also permits City Council to appoint a Lobbyist Registrar.

The City of Toronto Act offers one model aimed at achieving public accountability and transparency around decision-making. For another model of encouraging civic accountability, see City governance, general.

Acting on the power given to them in the City of Toronto Act, Council has further defined the powers of these Officers in by-law No. 1098-2009, passed 2009-10-27. The by-law entitled "Accountability Officers", is found in Chapter 3 of the regularly updated City of Toronto Municipal Code. For more information about the Toronto Municipal Code, see Toronto Municipal Code

The idea behind creating these 4 offices of Auditor General, Ombud, Lobbyist Registrar and Integrity Commissioner is to provide 4 officers whose job it is to act as watchdogs to help ensure that the City is accountable to its citizens.

The City of Toronto Act makes the following broad statements about the City and its obligations of accountability to the public: [To read parts of the law for yourself, see

- the City is a government “capable of exercising its powers in a responsible and accountable fashion” (see Preamble, Part I – Interpretation)

- the City exists for purpose of providing good government

- Council is responsible and accountable (s. 1. Governing principles of the Act)

The Act states that the Province of Ontario has given the City a broad framework of powers to allow the City to do a number of things to provide good government including the following:

- determine what is in the public interest

- respond to the needs of the City

- determine the appropriate structure for governing

- ensure the City is accountable to the public, and decision-making is transparent

Part V of the Act entitled "Accountability and Transparency" sets out the mechanisms by which the City is to be held accountable to the people of Toronto. To achieve this, the law requires that City Council take certain steps. It must appoint 3 "Accountability Officers" - an Integrity Commissioner, an Ombud, and an Auditor General - and it must set up a register of city lobbyists and define "lobbying" and the rules and safeguards around it. This section also gives Council the power to appoint a Lobbyist Registrar, which Council has done. All 4 of these officers are accountable and report directly to City Council.

The Integrity Commissioner's job is to apply a code of ethics passed by Council. This code sets out the conduct required of Councillors and members of city boards. The Commissioner can carry out inquiries into whether or not a Council or board member has breached this code. [To learn more about this role, see Integrity Commissioner's role

The Lobbyist Registar is an independent officer who is responsible for the lobbyist registrar that Council sets up. S/he can conduct inquiries into alleged breaches of compliance with the registration of lobbyists and any codes of conduct that Council passes. [For more detailed information about this role, see Lobbyist Registrar - Summary

The City must also appoint an Ombud, whose job is to "investigate any decision or recommendation made or any act done or omitted in the course of the administration of the City, its local boards and city controlled corporations". The Ombud cannot, however, investigate a complaint about a decision, recommendation act or omission by someone who provides legal advice provided to Council. [For more information about the Ombud and her role, see Ombud's powers

The Auditor General's job is to help Council to hold itself and the city bureaucracy accountable for "the quality of stewardship over public funds and for achievement of value for money in city operations". [For a more detailed summary of the AG's role, see Auditor General Role

Two-thirds of City Countil (30 Councillors) must vote in favour of appointing, reappointing, removing or terminating, or extending the term of an Accountability officer. These officers are appointed for a fixed term, which can be extended "in exceptional circumstances". An officer may resign with 90 day's written notice.

The selection process for an accountability officer must be conducted by an external recruitment firm, and a selection panel, appointed by the Mayor or the Mayor’s, recommends an officer for one of the four jobs. Any officer who wishes to continue for a second term, can request re-appointment 6 months before the end of his or her term. The salary of an officer is set by City Council, upon the recommendation of an independent external review.

Each officer is obliged to report annually to Council on the activities of his or her office and he or she reports directly to Council on investigations and inquiries s/he conducts.

An officer can also write policy-related reports to Council, which are first considered by Executive Committee. For a description of the Committees and decision-making at City Hall, see

In his or her audit-related reports to Council, sent first through the Audit Committee, the Auditor General must include a section describing "the savings achieved" by the City.

Each of the Accountability Officers' offices are subject to a yearly external audit as part of a larger "annual attest audit of the City" done by an "external auditor" who reports to Council.

Council has the power to periodically review and make changes to the mandate of an accountability officer "to adjust to changing circumstances". In conducting a review, Council must seek the experience, advice and input of the currently appointed officer.

Every accountability officer is independent of and separate from the City administration. S/he submits an annual budget request to the Budget Committee which, in turn, makes its recommendation to Council.

Each of these officers does his or her own hiring and is responsible for all staff-related responsibilities, subject to any City employment related policies.

In the by-law, the Editor notes that, for those Accountability Officers hired prior to April 30, 2009, the terms of their contracts with the City will prevail in the event that there is any conflict between what the by-law and their contract says re: fixed-term appointment, renewal of appointment, removal from office, termination or remuneration.