“Bureaucratic Botch Up”

“…the lack of central leadership and control has enabled staff to make up their own rules, encouraged them to use their more familiar existing systems wherever possible, and the resulting power vacuum has provided fertile ground for squabbling and empire-building. We are competing against each other for control of day-to-day procedures and routines, not working together under a unified command as we should be.”

Jeff Goodall, “Cover Story”: May 5thJune 5th, 2000.

When I started working for the Metropolitan Toronto Treasury Department in November of 1976, Metro’s Chief Administrative Officer, John Kruger, was constantly warring with Commissioner of Finance and Treasurer Jack Pickard over control of the vitally important budget function. John Kruger was the most successful (and the most political) public servant ever seen in the Toronto area, and once received front-page coverage by leaping out of a telephone booth while wearing a Superman costume. (Not for him the lawsuit faced by “Cashman” Russell Oliver, but that’s another story).

Although the Metropolitan Toronto Act clearly gave Pickard the right and responsibility to prepare corporate budgets, Kruger successfully lobbied the politicians until that function was placed under his purview. I remember well him coming onto “12 West” and yelling at Budget Division Chief Nolan Yearwood, even though Yearwood worked for Pickard. Kruger subsequently lost control in the continuing power struggle, and the division changed hands several times over the ensuing years.

Which brings me back to the “Uncashed Cheque Cache” story in the last issue. There could be any one, or any combination, of reasons why things in Finance are not running smoothly. But to re-visit the problems, let’s just review Finance Follies Part 1, and the resulting correspondence between the Director of Accounting and myself following my letter to Chief Financial Officer Wanda Liczyk.

Essentially speaking, I complained of a lack of leadership and direction by senior management in Accounting, both to other staff within Finance, and to staff in other departments. For example, the Director responded to my statement that the supervisor of banking had called a meeting of supervisory and support staff from across the City to discuss implementation of the new system “out of sheer frustration” by saying that “This meeting was held at the direction of the Manager of Financial Reporting to clarify issues and to amend procedures to address problems identified as a result of the new system.” Well, I should most certainly hope so! As I replied to the Director, “This came about as a direct result of the prompting of my supervisor, without whose initiative the meeting would not have taken place. The supervisor of banking requested permission for this meeting to be held.” More to the point, if the manager had been monitoring the new system, he would have been calling meetings himself, not just responding to the initiative of one of his subordinates. I am concerned that management is reacting to problems, rather than anticipating them.

My concern that “…central control of the forms in use by all departments is necessary, and someone should be in charge”, resulted in: “There are standard forms for all processes and departments should be encouraged to use them at all times.” Well, yes indeedy, now let’s just try to make them actually do it…as I replied, “There is no standardization of the forms used by persons sending cheques to me for deposit, in fact many persons do not use forms at all.” In connection with forms used for other purposes, I referred to “…forms which are created by the individuals contacting us…my supervisor was recently approached by a person who had designed a form and offered it to us for approval.”

On the critical matter of cheques being held by others for so long that they are sometimes stale-dated when received by the banking section, the Director replied: “When you receive stale-dated cheques they should be reported immediately to your supervisor. He will then communicate with the respective program area to ensure that all future payments are directed to the funds area in a timely manner.” Well good grief, of course I have been doing this, often providing my supervisor with photocopies of the evidence. And, he follows up. The problem, of course, is that we are ignored because the accounting division does not seem to assert, (or have?) any authority with other city departments regarding accounting systems, usage and procedures. At risk of being insubordinate, what is this “respective program area” routine? How about, “the staff elsewhere who can’t get off their butts and do the job on time?” The fact is that we are not respected because we don’t seem to have any teeth.

So far as overtime is concerned, I was told “The expectation is that over the year-end significant overtime is worked by all staff. This expectation comes with the territory..” My response included the following: “…if you are of the opinion that a scheduled overtime ‘requirement’ of eight hours during the week, plus a minimum of six hours on the weekend is a normal expectation, consistent with the practices of other municipalities and private companies, then I beg to differ with you…we are now expected to make up (for downsizing) by sacrificing family time and private time to an extent that I am quite certain would not be considered as normal or acceptable by any rational individual, or corporation for that matter.”

On May 10, I provided all council members, the Mayor, the city auditor and the media with copies of the correspondence. Here are some extracts from my covering letter: “It is difficult for me to prove my concerns. To do so needs the production of internal working documents, which I cannot do, and fellow employees will be reluctant to confirm my statements for fear of reprisals…” And, “A large part of the problem, in my opinion, is that front-line staff have not been utilized in the planning or implementation stages…as it is, the lack of central leadership and control has enabled staff to make up their own rules, encouraged them to use their more familiar existing systems wherever possible, and the resulting power vacuum has provided fertile ground for squabbling and empire-building. We are competing against each other for control of day-to-day procedures and routines, not working together under a unified command as we should be.

“Added to this is the callous and arrogant approach taken by management in dealing with staff, which has reduced morale and also engendered a degree of hostility towards management on issues such as overtime requirements, vacation scheduling, and an unwillingness to replace worn out equipment. (The photocopiers were replaced last Friday, (early May), after senior management realized just how bad the old ones were while we were out on strike). The City of Toronto can be quite callous at the corporate level as well, with people on maternity leave, or who had been off on long-term disability for years, being cut-off from their benefits while we were on strike. A manager and a supervisor in Finance were fired recently. They were unceremoniously escorted out of the building without any warning. If they can treat their own management colleagues like that, it is little wonder that they seem to have such little respect for unionized employees…”

And now back to John Kruger, and the struggles of the 70s: Is it possible that there is a power struggle going on between Treasurer Wanda Liczyk and the Commissioner of Corporate Services over the accounting procedures to be used by all city departments? Or, does the Chief Administrative Officer want control over the forms and systems needed for the provision of accounting services throughout the corporation? And if they are indeed scrapping it up, how come there is no clear winner by now?

I miss the bizarre and exciting times of the 70s! Maybe someone could take a header out of a phone booth again.

See original here.

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