Accountability and transparency
Greater Sudbury Council has unanimously adopted a model of Open Government based on the principles of Open Information, Open Data, Open Dialogue and Open Doors. Open Government is a movement that is endorsed by international, federal and provincial governments to move accountability and transparency to a higher and more comprehensive level.
The themes of Open Government are:
- Open Dialogue: Working with and communicating to the public and involving citizens in decision-making.
- Open Information: Opening up and proactively releasing government information.
- Open Data: Making data a publically available tool or asset.
- Open Doors: Implementing measures or plans for accountability and oversight of government actions.
The following is a summary of activities and next steps to achieve the themes of Open Government within the City of Greater Sudbury.
Open dialogue refers to formal and informal consultations that engage citizens in public debate and decision-making on the development and delivery of municipal programs, services and policies.
Existing community engagement processes include:
public input sessions,
Citizen Advisory Panels,
Community Action Networks, and
direct contact with Ward Councillors and the Office of the Mayor.
A Public Notice By-law, adopted by Council, supports the democratic right of citizens to be advised of where and when topics of municipal interest are discussed and provides opportunities for public input into decision-making.
During the summer of 2014, municipal staff conducted a review of the city’s community engagement processes. The review included a community engagement survey, to which close to 1,000 residents responded, as well as public meetings.
Findings provided by the survey and public meetings are being incorporated into tools and processes that promote more strategic and engaging participation in municipal government. For example, an identified need for greater understanding of processes, timing and outcomes of engagement opportunities will be addressed through the development of an open dialogue toolkit for both citizens and municipal employees.
Open information refers to a commitment to proactively release accessible, transparent, relevant and timely information.
The city's Corporate Communications division works with municipal services to develop and deliver communication programs, activities and services that inform and engage stakeholders.
This includes liaison with news media, sharing information on the city’s website and intranet, public interaction on Facebook and Twitter, hosting public meetings, open houses and surveys, preparing messages, presentations and speeches, and producing posters, flyers, publications, direct mail pieces and paid advertisements.
Corporate Communications administers Greater Sudbury's French Language Services Policy to ensure that citizens can assess municipal services in the official language of their choice. The division also works with municipal services to ensure that public information is available to citizens of all abilities, in keeping with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.
Open meetings of Greater Sudbury Council and Committees of Council are livestreamed on the city website and are available for later viewing in an online archive. Journalists routinely make use of a Wi-Fi network at Tom Davies Square to report on meetings as they happen on Twitter.
To allow time for review prior to public debate, agendas and minutes for meetings of Council and Committees of Council are available online and through the Office of the City Clerk seven days prior to a meeting date. Planning Committee agendas are available 10 days prior to a meeting date. Agendas and minutes for past meetings are also posted on the website.
Transparency of Council debate and decisions is respected under the City of Greater Sudbury Procedure By-law 2011-235 that prescribes the rules and proceedings of Council and Committee meetings. The basic principles for the application of these rules are:
- take up business one issue at a time,
- promote courtesy, justice, impartiality and equality, and
- while the majority rules, the rights of the individual, minority and absent Members are protected.
The City of Greater Sudbury continues to work toward an open by default standard, meaning instead of asking the question ‘why should we release this information’, municipal employees are encouraged to consider ‘are there any reasons why we can’t release this information’.
Open data is structured, machine-readable data that is freely shared, used and built on without restrictions or cost. Communities with open data support public access to technology.
The City of Greater Sudbury launched its open data portal in July, 2015 with 20 municipal datasets. Developers are welcome to use the city’s open datasets to create web or mobile applications which are free from restrictions of copyright, patent or other mechanisms of control.
The open data portal was created with ArcGIS Online, which allows citizens to search, view and interact with data in several formats, including spreadsheet (CSV), map file (shapefile or KML) or via API access.
The Greater Sudbury Public Library is a key partner in the provision of access and information to technology through programs which support family literacy, digital collections, public computers and maker space.
Staff will continue to publish datasets on an ongoing basis and citizens may also make suggestions about datasets that could be released as open data. New applications developed by private citizens are shared on the portal.
Open doors refers to the accountability of elected and appointed officials and municipal staff for ensuring open, thoughtful and timely decision-making and for having mechanisms in place to address systemic barriers or issues, when appropriate.
The Municipal Act, 2001 is the main statute governing the creation, administration and government of municipalities in Ontario. The Act stipulates that it is the role of Council to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of senior management, and to maintain the financial integrity of the municipality.
The Municipal Act requires all municipalities to adopt and maintain policies which address how the municipality will try to ensure that it is accountable and transparent to the public and the delegation of legislative and administrative authority to Council.
City of Greater Sudbury By-Law 2007-299, a Policy Regarding Accountability and Transparency and a Policy Regarding Delegation of Powers and Duties, was passed by Council on December 12, 2007. The policy reads in part that: “the City of Greater Sudbury conducts business within the municipality in a way that is open, transparent and accountable to the public” with specific reference to financial and internal governance matters, as well as public participation and information sharing
The City of Greater Sudbury Charter, unanimously adopted by Greater Sudbury Council in January, 2015, has affirmed Council’s commitment to act with transparency, openness, accountability and dedication to citizens, and to follow a Code of Ethics and all City policies.
Financial accountability and transparency of elected officials are furthered by the Remuneration By-law, the Council Expense and Healthy Community Initiative Fund Policy and quarterly expense reports.
The City of Greater Sudbury’s Office of the Auditor General reports directly to Greater Sudbury Council and is responsible for assisting Council in holding itself and its administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for achievement of value for money in municipal operations.
Greater Sudbury’s Purchasing By-law 2014-01 and related amendment 2014-158 is a significant plank in ensuring accountability and transparency of financial matters. The Purchasing By-law has undergone substantial review to strengthen internal controls, tracking of commitments and contract management.
Under the Ontario Municipal Act, every municipality is required to have a closed meeting investigator. Citizens are entitled to register a complaint if they believe a meeting of Council has taken place in an improper closed session. In the City of Greater Sudbury, the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman is the closed meeting investigator for Council and most municipal boards and committees.
The Office of the Ontario Ombudsman also serves as the city's Integrity Commissioner, with power to accept and investigate unresolved complaints regarding a potential violation of Council’s Code of Ethics and/or the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act requires members of Council who may have a direct or indirect financial or personal interest in a matter before Council to declare a conflict of interest and to withdraw from debate and any subsequent vote on the matter.
Complaint Resolution Management Process
Greater Sudbury Council has initiated and approved a process to accept, track and resolve complaints regarding potential or observed wrongdoing or unresolved service issues within local municipal government.
The city currently has systems in place to receive requests for service and for follow-up of complaints through its 3-1-1 call centre. A formal Complaint Resolution Process will permit citizens to escalate their concerns when they feel their complaint has not been adequately addressed through routine channels
The complaint resolution management process affirms Council’s commitment to Open Doors, which ensures that measures or plans are in place for the accountability and oversight of government actions.