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Manitoba Justice to review findings of police HQ audit

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The Northwest corner of the newly renovated PSB building at Smith Street and Graham Avenue, formerly the Canada Post offices and now the headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service. An audit into the project was publicly released Tuesday and will be forwarded to Manitoba Justice for review.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

The Northwest corner of the newly renovated PSB building at Smith Street and Graham Avenue, formerly the Canada Post offices and now the headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service. An audit into the project was publicly released Tuesday and will be forwarded to Manitoba Justice for review. Photo Store

Another audit of city operations is going to Manitoba Justice.

Council voted 11-5 Wednesday to request the province to review the KPMG audit of the police headquarters project.

"I’m deeply concerned about what I read in this report," Coun. Paula Havixbeck said. "Numerous questions not answered to satisfaction."

It was the second audit sent to the province in seven days. Last week, council sent the EY audit into 33 real estate transactions to Manitoba Justice, also seeking a review of its findings.

That didn’t go far enough for Coun. Russ Wyatt, who repeated his call for the province to launch a judicial inquiry into the dealings at city hall, based on the findings of those two audits and another released in the fall into the fire-paramedic program.

Wyatt said Greg Selinger's NDP provincial government shouldn’t have to wait to be invited to launch an inquiry. Repeated findings, such as reports of administration mismanagement and allegations of preferential treatment for certain individuals and firms, cry out for an inquiry, Wyatt said.

"The RCMP should be sent in here and files seized and people subpoenaed to tell what’s going on," Wyatt said.

The province issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, stating it hadn’t yet received the requests to review either of the audits.

"Manitoba Justice will determine the best method for review of these documents once they are received from the city," a government spokesman said in a statement distributed to media outlets. "The Province is committed to a thorough review and will advise of next steps when that review is complete."

The KPMG audit dominated a lengthy council agenda at Wednesday's meeting, where two members of the KPMG team fielded questions from councillors but failed to yield any new information.

The audit and a second report, a value-for-money study on the project, were accepted by council and administration instructed to implement the recommendations from both reports.

The KPMG audit into the police headquarters project found civic officials failed to follow city procedures put in place to manage the design, procurement and construction of major projects. More worrisome, the report also found that the city lacked many essential policies and procedures to govern administrative handling of such projects.

A proposal by Couns. Brian Mayes and Harvey Smith to hold a special meeting of council next week to question administration on both audits failed to find support from other councillors.

Mayor Sam Katz said if councillors had questions for members of the administration, they should approach them directly for the answers.

Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, who called for the EY audit into the real estate transactions, rejected a special meeting, explaining it would be inappropriate to "grill" administrators in a public forum.

Coun. Justin Swandel, a staunch supporter of the administration throughout the firestorm the three audits generated, said another meeting would be an opportunity to "score points" and wouldn't produce any new or relevant information.

Earlier in the day, KPMG team members John Heskin and Mark Bullen summarized their damning report and fielded questions for about 35 minutes.

While the audit made 25 recommendations, Bullen said the top two issues that city hall needs to address are the establishment of proper procurement procedures and administration adherence to them and the risk posed by the award of single-source contracts.

Bullen said awarding a contract to a firm without going to tender for the services is an uncompetitive process that exposes the city to unnecessary risk.

Heskin and Bullen could not explain why council was told in 2009 converting the old Canada Post warehouse facility into a modern police headquarters would only cost $105 million when the final construction cost is $155 million.

Mayor Sam Katz told the KPMG team that it was a consulting engineering firm and a civilian employee with the Winnipeg Police Service who gave council the $105-million figure during a briefing on the project.

The KPMG team said they did not determine if the city received proper value for any of the contracts associated with the $210-million project.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

 

 

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