Early look at Organization Review

One of the things that any CAO wants to know, is whether their organization is optimum.  So CAO Tracey Vaughan has hired KPMG to find out. On Monday, an initial report was presented to Council by Oscar Poloni with a final report due in another week.  It’s not clear if all of it will be public so let’s look at what we have.  Oscar pointed to the earlier Service Delivery Review for complementary information (it focused on what you do and why you do it) whereas the Organization Review focused on “how you are structured to deliver services” and emphasized that the Organization should be aligned with Strategic priorities.  Given that, he was concerned that changing priorities meant that some things were not getting done.

His presentation to Council included some concerns and recommendations:

  1. Some departments are given new tasks so earlier priorities are not getting done.
  2. There is no Economic Development Manager yet Economic Development is one of the actions in the Strategic Plan.
  3. Customer Service is suffering: approx. half of the 219 citizens surveyed were not satisfied with the service provided.
  4. Employee morale is an area of concern. A survey completed by Town employees (representing more than 60% of all employees) indicated significant concerns over training, succession planning, recognition and performance management.  For example, only 49% agreed that the Town is “open to change as an organization”. See Oscar’s presentation in  links below.
  5. There are risks facing the Town – e.g. cyber attacks and procurement – there should be a centralized procurement system and policy.
  6. There are significant development pressures in the near term (that is, significant growth in Cobourg).  This translates into greater emphasis on:  Long-range planning,  Infrastructure planning and Service expectations for the development community.
  7. Although staffing levels seem appropriate, some services have no dedicated full-time staff assigned.
  8. Lack of a formal HRIS requires manual data collection and analysis.  That is, HR should have an IT system if they are to do anything more than use paper to record HR information.
  9. Director-level authority is limited to $5,000 vs $50,000 for other municipalities.  That is, too many decisions must come to Council for approval.
  10. Lack of an e-permitting solution increases time and personnel requirements for building permit applications.  That is, Building Permits should use a computer system.

Oscar recommended that:

  1. Development permitting and long-range planning should be separated
  2. Capital project engineering and infrastructure planning should be separated

He said that to mitigate risks there are immediate needs that can be addressed in the short term:

  • Building inspection (Add some automation)
  • Procurement (centralised and standardised)
  • Information technology (Cyber risk)
  • Human resources (needs an Information System)
  • Grant and policy writer
  • By-law enforcement (needs more staff)
  • Economic development (needs a manager)

Longer term

  • Service Excellence can be addressed by transforming the Organization with a Transformation manager (no details on what this is) and Program financial analyst.
  • Service Continuance can be addressed with Staff additions as required to respond to Council direction, regulatory changes and growth pressures.

Oscar warned that the full report is more than 400 pages so includes a lot more detail than in his presentation.

Note that although many of his recommendations seem to call for more staff, Oscar also said that staffing levels seemed mostly OK.  This implies that apart from some minor staff increases, he is mostly recommending a better organization and more automation.

His presentation has a lot of food for thought and seems to indicate a lot of changes ahead for Staff. 


Earlier Reports on Cobourg News Blog

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18 September 2021 7:29 pm

Maybe its just me but I don’t get how improving Customer Service, by increasing the depth/breadth of the organization, is effective. Flattening the org is a better way. More empire building?????

18 September 2021 6:01 pm

Looks like the new CAO does not know how how to do her job. Hire a consultant to hide behind.

Reply to  cornbread
18 September 2021 9:00 pm

Actual it was council who ordered the org review it was done before this CAO was hired.

Reply to  cornbread
20 September 2021 10:47 am

Well all I can say is I know of several people who have made inquiries to this CAO since she’s started and they have received quick responses to their inquiries and responses from the applicable department because of her. Much better than recent personnel who filled that role. It will be interesting to see this over 400 page report and I will be interested to see what the town does with it.

18 September 2021 9:38 am

Amazing to find all this free advice from private citizens. “Empire Building” seems alive and
well in our town. Now that we know- maybe another consultant could be hired …..

18 September 2021 8:53 am

Item 9 I like it when Council / thus the public know what’s going on
there is just to many closed door decisions being made and for what reason.
5 or 10 $50 K decisions add up very quickly .
Also the duplication and over staffing in many areas does not seem to be
attracting any attention or reduction / downsizing .
We also spend way to much time creating Red Tape and process for
to many Committees that are merely public interest groups not far off
of say a Coin collecting club .

Reply to  Sandpiper
20 September 2021 8:42 pm

So you claim there is overstaffing in many areas, and where would that be? When did you complete a detailed analysis of town staffing to be able to make this assessment? The committees don’t cost any money and it allows for community input so I’m not sure why you would point that out as a reduction requirement. You also indicate many closed door decisions are made yet I would say 80-90% of any funding decisions are made public.

Last edited 1 year ago by Concerned
17 September 2021 2:11 pm

On the Director level purchasing limit of $5000, I thought the procurement by-law outlined a $50,000 CAO approval level. This would mean Council is not necessarily involved each time, depends on the specifics of the matter.

17 September 2021 2:06 pm

My question would be, why is the drinking water system managed by Lakefront Utilities and not the Town of Cobourg?
The majority of municipalities Cobourg’s size look after both the sewage system and the drinking water system.
Does Cobourg tender out the management of the drinking water system or is it just a given that Lakefront Utilities is the only choice?
For instance, I had a tree planted at my property and had to call for utility locates, one person from Lakefront Utilities located the water service, one person from Town of Cobourg Public Works located the sewer service and a contractor company “Promark” located the hydro service. Does this not seem silly or am I missing something?

Reply to  Leweez
17 September 2021 3:22 pm


Cobourg’s water system is wholly owned by the Town and is run by one of the Town’s business units (BU): Waterworks of Cobourg. This BU came into being in 2000 when the Harris Government deregulated the electrical utilities and the municipal public utilities commissions were disbanded. The resulting electrical utility is Lakefront Utilities Inc, a subsidiary of HOLDCO, a Town owned holding company.
The former CPUC employees were moved to LUSI (Lakefront Utilities Services Inc), also a HOLDCO subsidiary. LUSI provides management and operations staff to LUI.
Waterworks (the Town) contracts the operation of the Town’s water system to LUSI.
The Town could, if desired, contract with a different company, such as OCWA (the Clean Water Agency, a provincial Crown Corporation) to operate the water system

Last edited 1 year ago by Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
17 September 2021 3:54 pm

So i guess,in essence,there is a lot of duplication of jobs between the Town Of Cobourg and Lakefront Utilities.
Town has a CAO,Lakefront a President,
Town has human resources department, Lakefront has a Human Resources department, the Town has customer service staff, Lakefront has customer service staff, the Town has a sewer locator, Lakefront has a water locator.
See where I am going with this, lots of unnecessary duplication

Last edited 1 year ago by Leweez
Ken Strauss
Reply to  Leweez
17 September 2021 6:27 pm

In addition to the duplication, taxpayers have no disclosure of the salaries of LUSI management since they are not reported in the Sunshine List of over $100K government employees.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
17 September 2021 6:31 pm

In my previous post i forgot to mention the Town has a council and Lakefront has multiple board members on multiple boards

Reply to  Leweez
18 September 2021 10:54 am

I believe Lakefront Board Members are paid handsomely. It can be a resting place for former Cobourg Mayors and Councillors. I look at this current review of the towns management reorganization and wonder when they might get around to doing some very necessary work that has been neglected for years, regardless of how ‘well’ organized the town has been. With all these levels of management I shudder every day when cars near our home dash across D’Arcy St at the 2 Way stop sign on University Ave. Lots of risk is taken including with the student pedestrian traffic that has to run across somewhere near this intersection every morning on their way to Gummow PS and to the High School and run back on their way home. The houses are on the East side of D’Arcy but the ONLY sidewalk is on the West side. Pedestrians must cross D’Arcy twice on any trip to or from school. Some people have died crossing D’Arcy. I have addressed the town on this issue but with no response. A FOUR WAY STOP would considerably reduce the risk that exists for a cost of a few thousand dollars – 2 Stop Signs. Seems the town is too busy planning, organizing and reorganizing to get this simple fix done. There are a number of 4 Way Stops at corners with far less traffic. Will anyone have any remorse WHEN someone is seriously injured or dies at this corner. There is no marked crossing on D’Arcy to assist pedestrians except at King and Elgin. That is too far to expect anyone to walk just to cross the street. So … Just run across and take your chances. I wonder what sympathetic response town officials will make when the next accident happens? With no stop signs D’Arcy… Read more »

Reply to  Doug
18 September 2021 2:52 pm

No worry! The town has a masterplan and did the right thing by adding a sidewalk to Abbott. Unwanted and never an accident.

Reply to  Leweez
18 September 2021 9:28 pm

You are correct in general.
HOLDCO is a holding (investment) company owned by the Town. It has management and a board of directors.
LUI (Lakefront Utilities Inc) and LUSI (Lakefront Utilities Services Inc) are each wholly owned subsidiaries of HOLDCO. Each has management and a board of directors. Some HOLDCO directors sit also sit on LUI or LUSI boards. HOLDCO and LUI have no employees. LUSI employs all management and staff. LUSI provides management staff to HOLDCO, LUI and LUSI. It also provides operations staff to LUI and LUSI. The Town contracts with LUSI to operate the Town’s (Waterworks) fresh water system.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
18 September 2021 4:01 pm

Because they aren’t employees of the town so why would they be on the sunshine list. Read Bryan’s post he accurately reflects the relationship with the town compared to others who want to make people think they are a part of the town which they are not. To imply they would be involved in town work other than the water supply is ludicrous.

Reply to  Concerned
18 September 2021 4:24 pm

Lakefront bills the sewer charges to customers.
Isnt that Town work?

Reply to  Leweez
18 September 2021 4:34 pm

No it is LUCI work.

Reply to  Leweez
18 September 2021 5:17 pm


The Town’s sewer charge is a function of water usage which is used to calculate the bill. The Town contracts this to LUSI who, in turn, subcontracts the work to a company that specializes in utility billing.

Last edited 1 year ago by Bryan
Reply to  Bryan
18 September 2021 6:45 pm

Boy, that sounds efficient

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Concerned
18 September 2021 5:02 pm

Concerned, for all practical purposes LUSI is part of the town. As Bryan noted, prior to 2000 they were part of the town and they still perform the same jobs. They are part of the same pension plan as other town employees. They only perform work for the town and there is no obvious reason why they are separate. Why shouldn’t their compensation be public knowledge assuming that some earn over $100K?

Reply to  Ken Strauss
18 September 2021 8:48 pm

Really then who pays the employees and sets their rules… not the town.

Reply to  Concerned
18 September 2021 9:11 pm


While HOLDCO, LUI and LUSI are separate corporate entities with their own management and board of directors, they are, nonetheless, all owned by the Town of Cobourg.
While the Town seems to follow a hands-off approach, the Town could, as the majority shareholder, mandate any policies/practices it wanted.
That is the prerogative and privilege of ownership

Last edited 1 year ago by Bryan
Reply to  Ken Strauss
19 September 2021 2:23 pm

For all legal purposes they are not. That matters more than practical.

Reply to  Concerned
18 September 2021 5:51 pm

because they are Public Servants ?

Reply to  Sandpiper
18 September 2021 8:49 pm

No they are not if they were they would be on the sunshine list.

Reply to  Ken Strauss
20 September 2021 5:54 pm

Maybe they make less than 100k. Sorry couldnt resist🙂

Reply to  Leweez
18 September 2021 2:15 pm

The price we pay for Water/Sewage service in Cobourg is crazy. We are pensioners and are always trying to think of ways to cut back on water – like using a rain barrel and flushing only when necessary.
Would be nice if Council would do the same and try to cut costs. When we lived in Toronto, we’d be lucky if we saw a street cleaner once a year. They come down our street in Cobourg almost weekly! Why?
Thanks for bringing all the Redundancy to our attention.
Who needs KPMG? Just come to John Draper’s blog.

Reply to  Kathleen
18 September 2021 5:17 pm

Cobourg has an abundance of very skilled retired/semi-retired folk who could do some (a lot??) of the work that the Town pays consultants to do. The Town, to date, has not tapped into this resource, for a myriad of reasons.

One consulting maxim states “a consultant’s worth is proportional to the distance travelled to meet the client”. In KPMG’s case, about 425km from Sudbury to Cobourg

Reply to  Bryan
18 September 2021 8:50 pm

Or from Kingston where they actually come from.

Reply to  Concerned
18 September 2021 9:02 pm

Try again.
KPMG Kingston is where the Town’s auditor is located.
KPMG Sudbury is where Oscar Poloni is based. He is the managing partner of the Sudbury office.