Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Audit of troubled cop shop urged

Sheegl's projects require scrutiny

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Two councillors and the head of the police union are calling for an audit of the new police-headquarters project, which continues to grow pricier.

Paula Havixbeck and Jenny Gerbasi said they plan to call for an audit at the next council meeting, saying there have been no answers or accountability for the project's many problems.

"There does not appear to be any consequence," to the project's cost overruns, Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) said. "It's imperative to how people view the level of transparency and whether we're making good decisions here."

"It is clear a more detailed analysis of what has happened with this project is absolutely necessary and is in the public interest," Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said.

City hall recently confirmed the most recent cost overruns on the Graham Avenue building is $17.2 million, bringing the total cost of the project to $210.8 million.

In 2009, Canada Post agreed to sole-source the sale of its former downtown facility to the city, which is converting the structure into new headquarters for the Winnipeg Police Service.

Council approved the project in 2009 with a price tag of $130.5 million. It climbed to $168 million a year later and by 2011, it was $193.6 million.

The latest overruns were attributed to starting a construction project with only 30 per cent of the drawings completed.

Police union president Mike Sutherland said he supports an audit.

"We're talking about serious amounts of money here," Sutherland said. "It looks as if some of the (building design) fundamentals were overlooked at the beginning and added to the costs at the end."

Havixbeck said the mishandling of the HQ project likely exceeds the mess with the fire hall-paramedic station replacement scandal, adding no questions are being asked about who is to blame.

Havixbeck said former CAO Phil Sheegl was key to both projects, yet he was allowed to quit before he could answer questions about either project.

"His silence was bought," Havixbeck said of Sheegl's departure, adding she remains dismayed other senior administrators have remained silent about what took place or are not being held accountable for their involvement in both projects.

"I'm not convinced the fire-hall audit was the worst," scandal, Havixbeck said. "I think the worst is yet to come."

Finance chairman Russ Wyatt said he is concerned council will uncover a series of problems as a result of Sheegl's tenure as CAO.

However, Wyatt refused to allow Havixbeck to discuss an examination of Sheegl's role or that of any contractors during the committee meeting, adding he was concerned the committee would leave itself open to legal action.

Havixbeck and Gerbasi said it was assumed both the HQ purchase and project management would be subject to the extensive five-year real estate review being conducted by city auditor Brian Whiteside. However, they said the mismanagement of the project is not part of the audit.

Havixbeck said council needs to instruct Whiteside to include the HQ project in his review or order a separate audit: "Everything (connected to Sheegl) that is put in front of us we need to scrutinize very, very carefully and many of the people involved in that fire-hall file."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 8, 2013 A7

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