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Show us a business case for consultant review

An independent third-party review of the operations of the Town of Fort Erie might be a good idea, but councillor John Hill’s approach to it could be improved.

The idea of an independent review being conducted under the guidance of “interested councillors and the CAO” defeats the purpose of independence.

The review should be conducted under the auspices of an integrity commissioner or some similar designate to ensure the terms of reference are followed.

The terms of reference should be written by the community. It could be done through the open house or public information centre system the town uses. It would invite written submissions as well.

The terms of reference are reviewed by council and a draft is prepared for council approval at a subsequent meeting.

Then an RFP is prepared for open competition, not pre-selected firms, and an evaluation “scorecard” is prepared to select the consultant.

The entire study will be presented to the public, not just the summary of recommendations and conclusions, where it will be received and given to the CAO for comment.

Even before we get into the technical details of a consultant’s review of the town, the community must know what the councillors expectations are, how much we can expect to save in taxes and how much this process is going to cost.

Back in 1994 or 95, a review by George Cuff was estimated to cost about $130,000 — about what it would have cost to buy up a sizable section of a street of cottages in Crystal Beach.

I had an opportunity to talk to Cuff out in British Columbia in 2005 when the idea of a town review came up again. “Are we talking Cadillac price or Volkswagen price,” I asked.

“I drive a Volkswagen and they’re not cheap,” he said.

It’s reasonable to expect a firm capable of a municipal review would cost $300K.

A one per cent tax hike is equal to about $150K in operations spending. Are we going to save two per cent, assuming recommendations are accepted.

There are a few recommendations right off the bat that a consultant can make that would not be acceptable, making a much of the review a very expensive batch of kindling.

It’s obvious councillors have some preconceived notions about town operations and personnel and that, really, they’re looking for someone outside to justify them.

If the new council is intent on having a consultant come in to rummage through the town, councillors would be well-advised to pay attention this year and begin the community process to establish some terms of reference with an eye to a review in the future.

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  1. George B. Cuff, FCMC | Jan 1, 2011 | Reply

    I do not generally see or respond to stories that reference my name in various papers across Canada. I am not sufficiently interested to become that tech savvy or modern and prefer my current pace and degree of interest in the musings of others. I noted this piece and thought I would offer a couple of comments: 1) the Council which was elected by the citizens recently in Fort Erie should be able to determine the terms of reference of any governance or corporate review. Reference could be made to the generic terms included on my website. 2) The cost of such a review will be determined by the terms of reference and by any budget that Council will set. I would think that a review of a reasonable scope could be accomplished for about $75-100,000 plus reasonable out of pocket expenses (likely less than $10,000.
    With best regards to all for a blessed and peaceful New Year,
    George B. Cuff, FCMC
    Consultant

  2. Mike Cloutier | Jan 2, 2011 | Reply

    The generic terms that Mr. Cuff refers to are at http://www.georgecuff.com/terms.html

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