Proposition C - City Services AuditorNovember 1, 2004
What it does
Proposition C would amend the Charter to give the Controller an additional function, title and funding as the City Services Auditor. It would direct the Auditor to monitor the level and effectiveness of City services, and oversee and reform contracting procedures. It was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors.
Why it is on the ballot
The Mayor and Board of Supervisors would be required to appropriate at least two-tenths of one percent (0.2%) of the City’s overall budget to fund the Auditor’s new duties. Today, the Controller’s Office has a budget of $3.2 million to perform audits. Proposition C will increase that to $8.5 million. Of the $5.3 million increase, $1.2 million would come from the General Fund and $4.1 million from non-General Fund money. In other words, this is a small “set-aside.”
Each year, the Auditor would:
- Audit the performance of the City’s street, sidewalk, and public park maintenance and cleaning operations. City agencies would have to establish regular, published maintenance schedules for streets, sidewalks, parks and park facilities
- Report on management and employment practices that make City government more or less effective and efficient
- Identify the five departments with the highest workers compensation claims, and recommend ways to reduce injuries and claims
- Identify the five departments with the highest overtime expenses, and recommend ways to reduce those costs
- Survey other jurisdictions and report on how they best handle similar issues
Prop. C specifies how the Auditor would conduct periodic, comprehensive financial and performance audits of City departments, services and activities. Audit requests made by a new Citizens Audit Review Board, the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, department heads and commissions would receive preference.
Prop. C would give the Controller authority to oversee the City’s contracting procedures. The Controller Would develop model criteria and terms of Requests For Proposals, audit compliance with City protocol and investigate abuse. The controller would not actively get involved in contracting issues, but would reform the contracting process.
Prop. C would set up a whistleblower hotline, and a system to handle complaints about the quality and delivery of government services, wasteful practices, misuse of funds, and improper activities by employees and officers.
- The concept of an independent, staffed and funded department, with the responsibility to look for ways to make government more efficient, is a good government reform. The Auditor will not literally have the power to enact all the reforms he may propose, but we probably wouldn’t want that anyway; the function of an audit is to provide information to management and to the citizenry. Then it’s up to the City to use that information wisely. Prop. C will almost certainly make government more accountable
- Because the Controller is appointed for a ten year term, extending through at least two, and possibly three mayors, he or she does not have to worry as much as most department heads about pleasing elected officials or special interests that provide campaign funds. Short of appointing the Controller for life (as was the case prior to 1988) this is as independent as it gets in government. Therefore, the Controller is a good position to take on these functions
- Prop. C makes “cleanliness” the most important thing government does by requiring annual performance audits of streets, sidewalk, and park maintenance and cleaning activities, and leaving it up to the Controller when to audit every other function carried out by government. Not public health, not transportation, but cleanliness. While no one would argue that clean streets are a critical component of city life, it makes no sense to lock in this priority at the ballot
- As a rule, SPUR opposes set-asides and this measure pre-commits 0.2% of the City’s annual budget in perpetuity. The problem with set-asides is that they remove flexibility from the budgeting process. If too many budgeting decisions are locked in place at the ballot, you end up with a sometimes impossible budgeting situation—the State government can serve as exhibit A. So far, San Francisco’s city government has not tied itself in the knots that have crippled State government, but we need to be careful.
- The measure goes into far too much detail for the Charter. This level of detail is appropriate for legislation, but not for the City’s “constitution”
This measure will increase accountability in government and lead to a more efficient delivery of public services. This measure does need to be on the ballot, to guarantee that the auditing function will be funded and staffed; if anything makes sense to be treated as a budget set-aside it is the auditing function.
SPUR recommends a "Yes" vote on Proposition C.