Prince George Coun. Brian Skakun is looking for support in his continuing quest for more financial transparency at city hall.
Skakun has filed a notice of motion with Monday's council agenda that demonstrates his desire to have access to the rationale behind city expenditures. Every year, the city publishes a list of amounts paid out to businesses in a financial information statement of individual suppliers.
But that list doesn't say what the money was for.
The motion asks for support for streamlining the process by which elected officials can access this type of information as well as for disclosure of the reason for seven specific pay-outs.
"Some of [the amounts] are substantial, there's other ones that are numbered companies that I don't even know who the principals are or what we paid for their services for," said Skakun, adding there are also amounts that members of the public have asked him about.
The 2011 expenditures Skakun is looking for clarification on include $631,980.31 to L&M Engineering, $85,322.33 to Number 188 Holdings, $43,883.90 to Anthem Kimco Shopping Center and $33,341 to GAKJRW Inc.
He said his requests to administration for the information were rebuffed because it required a great deal of unnecessary work and that he should get council's consensus on whether it was information the group needed for decision making.
In his notice, which should come to a vote at the Jan. 21 council meeting, Skakun wrote "I do not think that it is fair that as an elected official I need to provide a notice of motion at a city council meeting any time I want this type of information."
The councillor said he even went as far as going to a local business to ask what the city paid them for a couple of months ago.
"When it gets to that point that an elected official has to question a local business and I can't get the information from the city myself, I think that's a little disappointing to say the least," said Skakun.
While he is looking for a way to simplify the process of filling a councillor's request for the time being, Skakun said he hopes it would lead to proactive disclosure of this information in the future.
"If this passes, we could look at something down the road where I hope that an average tax payer would be able to phone city hall and say 'how come you spent X-number of dollars with an engineering firm,' for example and the city to respond in a timely fashion," he said.
Skakun said he hasn't yet submitted requests for the information under the Freedom of Information Act and hopes it won't come to that.
"I don't see any proprietary information or anything that would go against the FOI Act to prevent myself or others from actually seeing what we spend money on," he said. "I'm not looking at creating a whole bunch of work for administration. I think it's something that's manageable and I think when we show more transparency, people are generally less suspicious of government."
Last February, council rejected a pair of proposals from Skakun and Coun. Garth Frizzell aimed at increasing government transparency.
Skakun called on the city to disclose its expenses and expenditures in monthly reports to city council, while Frizzell was looking for the city to proactively disclose all results of Freedom of Information requests on its website.
At the time, council voted against the motions based on advice from the finance and audit committee, which found it would take an additional 64 to 90 hours of staff time per year to do the work.