Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 2, 2012

Editorial: Audit must pass transparency test


---- — If the management audit (or efficiency review) of Traverse City Light & Power is as thorough as the vetting process to pick an auditing firm appears to have been, the whole exercise could be worth the time and money it will cost. If it isn't, the city should chuck it right now.

Beyond any other concerns, picking an auditing firm and conducting a clean and transparent audit must first pass the considerable sniff test the entire process will be subjected to; it's a situation rife with political undercurrents and various parties will be quick to undermine it if the audit doesn't go their way.

That's why it's so important that everyone involved gets a say in which firm will do the actual work.

A task force made up of representatives from the city commission, Light & Power and local business and community leaders will next week interview the three firms that said they were interested.

The task force's recommendation will go to the Light & Power board in late August or early September for approval, then to the city commission.

While the management review — it is also being called an efficiency study — won't absolutely settle the issue, it should go a long way toward supporting or dispelling claims by various parties that Light & Power is overstaffed or administratively top-heavy or inefficient. There have been plenty of questions about Light & Power's $30 million surplus, the utility's marketing efforts and some recent decisions the city commission wanted to be better informed about.

Under the city charter Light & Power is a separate city department with its own board; those board members are chosen by the city commission.

If successful, the audit should answer those questions and more. If it's not, we'll be right where we started after spending up to $100,000 of Light & Power dollars.