VANCOUVER’S Auditor General Mike Macdonell on Monday released a report on his audit of revenue management at the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation (Park Board).
The Park Board collects fees for various services that it provides. Some fees recover costs in whole or in part, whereas other fees are intended to generate surplus revenues to fund other services. Examples of fees collected include golf green fees, moorage fees at the Burrard Civic Marina and recreation admission passes at community centres. Between 2018 and 2022, the Park Board collected an average of $56.3 million annually from fees and charges.
The audit determined that while some processes were used to inform fee-setting, the Park Board did not operate an effective framework for achieving revenue-related objectives for its revenue-generating assets and services.
The audit found that the Park Board followed a consistent annual fee update process that was made available to the public and used different factors to inform fee-setting such as the rate of inflation, marketplace comparisons, accessibility and affordability.
However, the Park Board did not define the level of service it intended to deliver for all revenue-generating services and did not have a method for determining where user fees should and should not be charged or to what extent. The fee-setting process was not supported by evaluations of the full costs of service delivery, and performance metrics were defined for only some revenue-generating service areas.
The Park Board’s overall funding structure is set-out in the Vancouver Charter and requires it to obtain City Council approval for all expenditures, including the expenditure of funds generated from revenue-generating activities. The audit found that while the Park Board has strategies to guide the delivery of parks and recreation services, it had not proactively engaged with City Council to align its priorities with available funding.
The report contains six recommendations to enhance the Park Board’s ability to achieve its revenue objectives. The Park Board accepted all the recommendations and has provided action plans in response.
Macdonell said: “In some cases, facilities and services are provided by the Park Board at no or low cost, and for others it seeks to recover costs either fully or in part. However, setting the fees necessary to achieve cost recovery objectives requires the Park Board to have a comprehensive understanding of both the intended levels of service and the full costs to deliver those services. We found this understanding was incomplete.
“In addition, while the elected Park Board is independent of City Council, it can’t spend money without Council’s approval. This makes it essential for the Park Board to proactively engage City Council in its strategic planning to secure the funding necessary to bring its long-range plans to life. Other than its budgeting processes, we found this engagement lacking.”
He added: “I am very pleased that the Park Board has accepted all six of my recommendations and look forward to seeing its actions plans brought to life in the coming months.”
To view the report, visit: webpage
STEVE Jackson, General Manager of Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, said in a statement:
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the City of Vancouver’s Office of the Auditor General (OAG) for performing a comprehensive and objective review of Park Board’s Revenue Management Process. The OAG staff conducted the performance audit with professionalism and their approach was structured and analytical. They were able to synthesize a large amount of evidence from many different sources and provided thoughtful recommendations for areas of improvement.
“I am thankful that the audit process was inclusive and transparent, allowing staff a fulsome understanding of Park Board’s revenue process, opportunities for data and metrics to inform revenue management and overall ability to optimize revenue generation.
“We believe that implementing many of these recommendations will not only help management in managing revenues, but will also provide clarity for our valued users and patrons regarding our fee setting process, how our varying services are funded, and some insight into how we achieve a balanced budget each year. At a time where affordability is top of mind for many, strong policy and fiscal monitoring ensures we can deliver the best value for money for our customers and taxpayers, and be transparent in the process.
“I would also like to recognize the efforts of all the Park Board staff that were receptive to the opportunity to take part in this performance audit. Park Board staff acknowledge the findings of the report and are supportive of the recommendations, understanding that it will require resources and organizational capacity to prioritize the implementation of these recommendations.
“We look forward to working with the Auditor General to implement the City’s response and next steps as outlined.”