CRITICS worry there is a pattern of "strange procedures" at city hall after a former mayoral staffer raised concern Winnipeg officials may have violated rules with contracts related to the new police headquarters.
Brian Kelcey, a political consultant and former adviser to Mayor Sam Katz, sent an open letter to members of city council on Tuesday questioning whether city officials followed proper policy when they awarded Dunmore Corporation the contract to manage construction of the new headquarters. Dunmore Corporation's president is Ossama AbouZeid, who also oversaw construction of Investors Group Field, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers' new football stadium at the University of Manitoba.
Kelcey said the city's policy is to tender consultant contracts that exceed $100,000, but a recent city financial report suggests Winnipeg's public service sole-sourced a contract to Dunmore and paid the company $262,580 in fees to manage the police headquarters redevelopment.
The letter also raised concern Adjeleian Allan Rubeli, an Ottawa engineering firm hired to help manage the headquarters project, has been paid $4.5 million. The city initially sole-sourced a contract to Adjeleian Allan Rubeli for a fee that was not to exceed $2.6 million, Kelcey's letter states.
Kelcey said there's no evidence to suggest the firms involved did anything untoward, but it's important City of Winnipeg staff follow their own policies.
"The broader concern is do this enough times and eventually people will try to manipulate the system and we'll start to look like Montreal," he said. "Those rules exist to ensure fairness and competition and they exist to prevent waste and corruption."
Winnipeg chief administrative officer Phil Sheegl said as far as he knows, the city followed proper policy and officials did a lot of consultation with the materials management department before contracts were awarded.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Sheegl said he was heading into a meeting with the city's legal and materials management officials to go over the points raised in Kelcey's letter.
He said he would respond further today: "I just want to make sure I have all the answers to all the questions rather than doing it piecemeal."
Finance committee chairman Coun. Russ Wyatt (Transcona) said the public service is in charge of overseeing the police headquarters project and the CAO should address these questions as soon as possible. "Whenever you hear of something like this, of course it's a concern," Wyatt said.
Canadian Taxpayers Federation Prairie director Colin Craig said it appears to be the latest example of "strange procedures" at city hall. Craig said city administration and elected officials must explain what happened because they are paid to carefully scrutinize projects.
"It looks like the city didn't follow proper procedure," Craig said referring to the contracts highlighted in the letter to council. "What's worse is there seems to be a pattern at city hall for not following proper procedure and it's costing taxpayers a lot of money."
Last month, Shindico was stripped of its contract to manage the 11-storey tower portion of the former Canada Post building after complaints it was awarded under a search that did not explicitly identify property-management services.
The committee also cancelled a proposed land-swap deal, initially negotiated by fire-paramedic Chief Reid Douglas, which would have seen the city trade three properties to Shindico Realty for the new fire-paramedic Station No. 12, which was built on Shindico-owned land on Taylor Avenue.