By Ezra Black
A report by the Office of the Auditor General for Local Government found that the City of Fernie faces a number of human resource risks.
“As a small local government, Fernie has limited capacity and many staff carrying out multiple roles in order to deliver services,” said Gordon Ruth, Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG). “This creates risks for the City, which it may be able to address by sharing human resources functions with other nearby local governments.”
The performance audit of the city’s human resources practices was released on January 17 and says staff turnover, an aging workforce and ongoing capacity issues will require the city to adopt a longer-term, more integrated approach to workforce planning.
With an aging workforce, especially in leadership positions, the city will likely need to replace numerous key employees due to retirement, said the report.
In some cases the city has already taken steps to address these risks, said Ruth. The audit notes that Fernie has already started a process to engage a human resources professional through a shared service arrangement with other nearby communities.
“With a new chief administrative officer in place, the city is well positioned to address the findings and recommendations in our report,” said Ruth. “By exploring the possibility of shared human resources services, Fernie could benefit from valuable services the city otherwise might not be able to afford.”
The report’s 13 recommendations include seven in areas of human resource planning such as staff recruitment and retention and succession planning. Four recommendations are in areas of human resource management such as employee training and development and staff performance evaluation. Two recommendations touch on human resource administration in areas such as human resources policies and procedures and employee information.
The city has provided us with an action plan and in some cases they’ve already started the initial steps to do some of that work,” said Ruth.
In response to the audit, Mayor Mary Giuliano said “The report fairly represents the realities of the City of Fernie at the time that the audit was conducted. The thirteen recommendations provide a road map that we are confident our new CAO and his staff will use to improve human resource management at the city.”
CAO Norm McInnis acknowledged that there are human resource issues in Fernie and that he was looking forward to implementing the report’s recommendations.
“We have a timeline to implement these over the next couple of years,” he said. “The first one’s going to be a human resources specialist and we’ll be recruiting for that in the very near future.”
This is the AGLG’s third of five reports on the topic “Managing the Inherent Risks of Limited Human Resources within Small Local Governments,” following the recent release of reports on the District of Squamish and City of Nelson. The other two reports will be on the District of Port Edward and District of Tofino.
The release of this report completes the performance audit process for the City of Fernie. This is the 25th report issued to date by the office of the AGLG, including 21 performance audit reports and four AGLG Perspectives booklets, which aim to provide a wide range of local governments with helpful advice and information relating to audit topics the office has explored.