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Fire station land-swap deal to go to outside review

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The City of Winnipeg will retain "external resources" to complete a review of its contentious fire-paramedic station replacement program, as per the advice of city auditor Brian Whiteside.

On Sept. 4, the mayor asked chief financial officer Mike Ruta to review the $15.3-million design and construction of four new fire-paramedic stations, mainly due to council anger about a proposed swap of two old stations and a parcel of Fort Rouge land for the privately-owned site of the new Station No. 12 on Taylor Avenue.

The review was later widened to include the help of external land appraisers and city auditors. It was expected to wrap up last week.

The city now needs outside help to complete the review, as the scope is beyond the audit department, Whiteside said Monday in a joint statement with the mayor.

"In order to ensure a thorough and complete review, I have recommended to the Mayor that I hire external industry experts, both to expedite the review and draw upon expertise not generally found within audit departments," Whiteside said in the statement.

"I am committed to putting the time and resources necessary to ensure Council and the taxpayers of Winnipeg receive a complete and accurate picture of everything that has taken place," Katz added.

The review will look at the impetus for building new fire-paramedic stations in Sage Creek, Charleswood, River Heights and St. James, as well as procurement process that led to Shindico Realty winning the right to build the new facilities, according to the statement.

The review will also look at whether "all controls, policies and procedures with regard to the procurement" were followed and will also look at the procedures that led to the proposed land swap. It will also look at whether the program was communicated properly to council and whether the swap delivered value for money, the statement said.

Finally, it will make recommendations for improvements and determine whether any disciplinary action should be taken, the statement said.

The timeline for doing all this will be announced within days.

"Councillors and taxpayers are deserving of a complete explanation of how and why events unfolded," Katz said. "I am committed to seeing they get one."

History

Updated on Monday, September 24, 2012 at 5:07 PM CDT: Adds information from city statement.

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