More flexible funding makes tracking project benefits difficult, says Alderman

City Hall

Since its implementation in December 2010, Mayor Nenshi said the Cut Red Tape initiative has saved 33,000 hours of work by City employers, translating into a savings of just over $1 million to the City. But one alderman wonders if the money spent could be better used.

Ald. Andre Chabot admitted that so far the project has shown results, but still questions is whether the costs outweighs the savings. 

Mayor and council received and unanimously carried recommendations to the Cut Red Tape project at the Sept. 16 City Council meeting. But not without some concerns raised.

“Would our money be better spent in other things to achieve greater results is the question.”

– Alderman Andre Chabot

Ald. Chabot voiced his apprehensions over the shift in funding and whether the savings outweighed the cost.

“Would our money be better spent in other things to achieve greater results is the question,” Chabot said.

To date, the project has spent $202,563.

The Cut Red Tape project has gone through two phases so far: The first phase included collecting suggestions and comments from businesses owners, citizens and employees. Almost 600 submissions were received. The second phase included using these submissions as guidelines as to where the City needed to start cutting red tape.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi addressing the press outside the City Council chamber.  Supplied by Evan ManconiMayor Naheed Nenshi addressing the press outside the City Council chamber.

Photo by Evan Manconi“Red tape,” as defined by the City, consits of non-essential procedures, forms, licences, and regulations which add to the cost of dealing with The City of Calgary.

Currently the Cut Red Tape program is predominantly funded through the Innovation Fund. The fund gave the project a very definitive amount of capital to work with and made tracking costs and savings easier, Ald. Chabot said.

One of the recommendations put to council involves moving the funding from the Innovation Fund to the Office of Economic Development and Policy Coordination. This will make the funding more flexible to city administration employees who are in and out of the project, Mayor Nenshi said.

This shift to more flexible funding worries Ald. Chabot.

“[The new funding] is more open-ended, meaning there is no limits as far as how much they can spend,” Chabot said in an interview during council’s lunch break. “They still have to track their time, but sometimes it’s a little bit difficult.”

Nenshi said the City has learned how easy it is to track costs through the Cut Red Tape project, but there are still many difficulties in tracking benefits.

One difficulty Ald. Chabot noted was tracking time over several City departments. Small amounts of untracked time can add up, which then in turn skews the cost versus savings ratio.

“One of the goals in the next phase is to create methodologies to better track [benefits],” Nenshi said.

Ald. Peter Demong, chairman of the Cut Red Tape committee, expressed how important it was for a variety of City initiatives and projects to be involved, adding that there needs to be less of a methodology shift and more of a cultural shift.

One of the program’s goals is to eventually no longer need a separate Cut Red Tape program because of the cultural shift.

The Cut Red Tape program was one of Mayor Nenshi’s top priorities when he was elected three years ago. The mayor said via twitter the project has only just begun, but with a lot of encouraging early success.

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