Strengthening Accountability On Trustee Expenses
School board trustees are important partners in publicly funded education. Families and taxpayers rely on them to govern their boards and make spending decisions in a transparent and accountable way.The public deserves assurances that appropriate policies and practices for trustee expenses are in place. We have taken a number of steps to strengthen trustee expense accountability both at the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) and at boards across the province.
Measures To Strengthen Trustee Expense Policies At The TCDSB
- Implemented new trustee expense policies at TCDSB in September 2008
- Changes to the board's expense policies include:
- Removal of trustee benefits
- Replacement of car allowance with reimbursement for kilometres traveled
- Ban on the use of expenses for gifts and donations
- Require board approval of attendance at conferences with an annual maximum expenditure of $3,000
- Require board approval for all promotional materials
- Require public quarterly reporting of all expenses
- The new trustee expense policies will save about $370,000 annually from previous spending
- Trustee expense budgets are temporarily reduced another $260,000.These restrictions will continue as long as the board remains under supervision
- All equipment and furniture purchased by trustees must be returned as board property at the end of their term.
Measures To Strengthen Accountability At All School Boards
Ernst & Young LLP's audit report, entitled Toronto Catholic District School Board Trustee Expense Reconciliation, provides valuable information to discuss with trustee associations to ensure that all boards across Ontario have clear, accountable and transparent expense policies in place. While most boards have well-established and accountable expenditure practices, many do not have separate and distinct expenditure policies for trustees.
Actions have already been taken to strengthen accountability:
- The Ministry of Education issued new expenditure guidelines for boards in December 2006 and directed boards to post their expense policies online
- Followed up with the 7 boards that had the highest per trustee expenditures in the province. All boards reported that coding errors were the main cause for what appeared to be higher spending on trustee expenses. These errors have now been corrected
- A letter sent to trustee associations and the Council of Ontario Directors of Education to discuss strengthening oversight and reporting of trustee expenses
- Consideration to mandate stronger rules around trustee expenses, including:
- Approval processes for trustee expenses
- Annual disclosure of expenses
- Defining eligible expenses
- Ensuring appropriate controls are in place.
These additional measures will help ensure that public dollars are spent in the most responsible way possible, sustaining and building confidence in Ontario's publicly funded education system.