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Confidence lacking

Dear editor:

The Oct. 6, 2009 Rainy River District School Board meeting has an amended purchasing policy on its agenda for approval.

The board reviewed and approved the existing policy just last September. What has changed?

Under the proposed policy, these are the changes:

•$1.00-$99,999.99 can be purchased with no board oversight or board notification;

•$100,000-$2,000,000 will be passed on to the board’s finance committee as an information item only; and

•only purchases over $2 million will require board approval.

A recent e-mail to the Board requested:

•that a copy of Procedure 8.09 Purchasing be posted in conjunction with Policy 8.09 for stakeholder review and consultation;

•asked why this policy was revisited by the board in less than 12 months; and

•asked where on the board’s website are policies posted for stakeholder review and consultation.

In their response, I was accused of being verbally disrespectful to the board. However, I have only made written submissions to the board, though admittedly not flattering, that have only been directed at policy and procedure.

Any discourtesy evidenced to date has been by this board and its management’s non-disclosure of information and non-acknowledgment of the loss suffered by the fundraising students and parents at Fort Frances High School, nor any concern for the staff/students/parents at the Sturgeon Creek School.

In addition, the board indicated that our year-long correspondence should indicate to me that this has been ineffective.

The board’s response to this e-mail obviously avoided any comment or reference to the questions submitted, as usual. Our concerns regarding these amendments, if implemented as presented, are:

•a significant reduction in financial transparency and accountability for board purchases (likely, the majority of purchases will not even go to committee as information items);

•as far as we can determine, Procedure 8.09 Purchasing has not yet been developed, and likely will not be presented to the board for approval; and

•procedures are not available for public review on the board’s website, and in this particular case should be.

Procedures are developed, approved, and implemented by management, based on policy, and do not require board approval. Unfortunately, for the board’s constituents, the implementation of procedures with regard to school-based funds and the board’s safe drinking water policy over the past several years does not instill confidence that the purchasing procedure will be implemented any differently.

This concerns us a great deal, in terms of there being any identifiable accountability and transparency in the board’s purchasing policy as presented.

Therefore, we urge the trustees to research the “best practices” of other district school boards, specifically the Lakehead board, in terms of both their purchasing policy and purchasing procedures posted on their website before voting on the proposed amendments to Policy 8.09.

Your research would reveal a single position responsible for all purchases, and that all quotes and tenders be retained for the annual audit review.

Thank you.

Respectfully submitted,

David Kircher

Fort Frances, Ont.

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