Audit looks into why volunteers quit long before Edmonton playgrounds are built

The Allendale Community League wanted to turn this unusable asphalt pad into a community garden.
The Allendale Community League wanted to turn this unusable asphalt pad into a community garden. Courtesy: Jens Deppe

It shouldn’t take three years to do the paperwork for a playground and an Edmonton¬†city audit agrees the system needs fixing. The report, reviewed Thursday by city council’s audit committee, identified too much red tape.

“There’s so much bureaucracy on it–and it takes so long–that a lot of people just give up,” Lori Kraus told the meeting. She’s been with the Grandview Heights Community League for 13 years and finds the system is getting worse, not better.

The bane of her existence is paper work.

“I don’t mind providing the information to the city, all the information that they need. But why do they need it repeatedly in form after form? I was getting frustrated with that.”

Mayor Don Iveson asked City Auditor David Wuin if the problem was process or culture.

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“Both,” he responded. “Primarily I think it is more of a process issue in this one, because there are multiple departments involved, which probably leads to multiple complexities.”

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One of the report’s recommendations is to have some department in the city take ownership of the grants program.

“There are multiple city departments involved in the process but none are accountable for the entire program,” the report reads.

It said it should also be more flexible.

“In order to improve the process, the city should review the requirements for small versus medium versus large projects, in order to make the process scalable,” the report said.

City manager Linda Cochrane said things changed a few years ago when the city started making more grant money available to community leagues. Then a few projects ran into logistical problems.

READ MORE: Lack of volunteers forcing Edmonton community league to fold

“There was great concern over our lack of oversight and the rigor that we put into the process for this,” she told the committee. “And I would be the first one to say: maybe we switched too far the other way.”

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To sort it out, a task force (half city staff, half community league members) is working towards a solution. They’ve met once, but wanted to wait to see the results of this audit before taking action.

“There have been major challenges that have arisen in terms of completing these projects, which disempower volunteers,” Councillor Michael Walters said, “and that’s the last thing that we want to do as a city, is disempower community volunteers.”