Council changes cheque policy

Cheques issued by the city up to $2,000 in value will now have electronic signatures.

Cheques issued by the city up to $2,000 in value will now have electronic signatures.

At its committee of the whole meeting June 26, council debated a recommendation that cheques of $500 or less in value be signed electronically, but after the discussion went with the greater amount.

Coun. Geoff Bourdon presently signs cheques on behalf of council.

“We had gone with $500 but when I go through and look at the cheques, most of them have gone through the check point, and the formality is to sign them,” he said.

Director of finance Pat Higgins looked at other municipalities and noted that $500 is quite low.

“Staff has some authority to sign purchase orders for that low. It was discussed at the general governance committee that 50 per cent of the cheques were below $500, so we thought it would be more efficient to use electronic signatures. I think $2,000 is reasonable,” Higgins said.

At its June 5 regular meeting council approved having the monthly cheque register made public.

Bourdon said he’s comfortable with the electronic signatures because of the cheque registry.

“Everyone can look at that,” he said of the registry.

He also said the advantage is if something comes up quickly that has to be paid for then city staff don’t have to find him to sign a cheque.

While council passed the motion to use electronic signatures, councillors Surinderpal Rathor and Danica Hughes, along with Mayor Kerry Cook, were opposed.

Cook said she would have supported the $500 amount.

Rathor said he has questions over checks and balances, especially around expense reports.

“As it is right now you have three sets of eyes looking at the cheques. Two eyes when the manager authorizes the expense, second set when staff signs the cheque, and third set when council members sign the cheque. When a mistake is made, it could be made anytime so that’s my reason for being opposed.”

After further discussion, council passed a motion to review its checks and balances procedure.

“Council needs to be aware in black and white what the procedure is,” Cook said.