The B.C. government paid a private headhunting firm about $57,000 to hire a new local government spending watchdog, documents show.

That’s despite the province having its own in-house department of Executive Recruitment and Development Services, which has hired other executives.

“How are we going to save taxpayers money if we’re duplicating the work,” said Jordan Bateman of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “Why have this agency if we’re just going to outsource the work anyways?”

Basia Ruta was hired as the auditor-general for local government in December. The office is in the midst of 18 audits of local government spending to try and find efficiencies.

Documents obtained by CTV News through a freedom of information request show Ruta billed about $22,000 to move from Ottawa to B.C.

But critics are questioning the other expenses, which include a $45,000 lump-sum payment to recruiting firm Odgers Berndston. The agency also charged a $3,420 search fee, a $5,000 consulting fee, and a $493 fee for a video conference call.

“I have to laugh at nearly $500 on a video conference call. I Skype for free every day. There are cheaper ways to deliver this,” Bateman said.

The total bill from Odgers Berndston was about $57,000 – about 30 per cent more than the average annual B.C. wage.

Ruta was not the only B.C. executive to be hired through Odgers Berndston. The agency received $212,263 in the last fiscal year to hire three people.

The other two were Joyce deWitt Van Oosten, the assistant deputy attorney general for Crown services, and Blaine Lawson, general manager of the Liquor Distribution Branch.

The government did not provide anyone to answer questions on camera. A spokesperson wrote in an e-mailed statement that outside search firms were curtailed in 2007 in favour of in-house people, which handle 98 per cent of government recruitments.

Outside searches are only done in special cases, and no other search firm was used this year, the e-mailed statement said.

A typical fee is one third of the first year salary of the recruited individual. Basia Ruta’s salary is $200,000 a year, which would normally mean a $67,000 fee, but the B.C. government has negotiated a discount, the spokesman said.

The NDP’s Kathy Corrigan questioned the expenses, especially given the scale of the fee.

“People are wondering why we’re spending this kind of money at a time when we need to tighten our belt and decrease services,” she said.

The spokesman for the auditor-general for local government, Mark Tatchell, said Ruta was on vacation and unable to answer questions. But he said she is mindful of accounting standards and all expenses were approved.

“She’s a former CFO for Environment Canada, a chartered accountant, and I can assure you she is going to be mindful of financial standards,” Tatchell said.