Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Audit slams city vehicle agency

"ö Alleges poor spending, reporting practices "ö Former boss dismisses report as 'biased'

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The Winnipeg Fleet Management Agency spent almost $2 million on a software system that hasn't been fully implemented, sends too many staff to out-of-town conferences and needs to be monitored more closely by city departments, according to a scathing performance audit that comes before city councillors today.But in an equally scathing response, the former head of the agency claims the auditors don't understand fleet management or even what Winnipeg's special operating agencies are supposed to do.

Today, city council's audit committee will review the final report from a team of city auditors who spent 18 months looking at the Winnipeg Fleet Management Agency, which provides vehicles to most city departments.

The three-member team, led by manager Bryan Mansky, maintains the agency spent nearly $2 million on information technology consultants without following through on their recommendations. That figure includes $476,000 spent on a fleet-management system the agency may no longer need, the auditors write.

They also say the agency provides incomplete performance information to the city, doesn't calculate repair rates, fuel charges and vehicle-maintenance costs properly and needs to review staffing practices that result in above-average training costs.

In 2008, the agency spent an average of about $1,387 to train each employee, while other city departments spend about $300 a year, the auditors say. A big factor in this expense was a questionable decision to send 14 agency staff to the same training conference.

The auditors conclude the Winnipeg Fleet Management Agency -- one of four city special operating agencies that are supposed to run like independent businesses -- requires more oversight from city departments.

"Although the Winnipeg Fleet Management Agency was set up as a special operating agency in order to allow for greater autonomy in day-to-day decision making, it is evident that corporate departments such as information technology, human resources and finance need to play a greater role with respect to oversight of WFMA operations," the auditors write.

The agency's former chief operations officer rejects most of the 121-page audit. Yvan Lupien, who left Winnipeg for a job with the City of Ottawa in 2009, has penned a 156-page response that suggests the auditors are pursuing some kind of agenda on behalf of senior city officials.

Lupien writes that anyone who reads the audit as well as his response "will see that the original report is biased, based on false premises and often presents as evidence 'facts' that are simply in error or out of context."

Lupien dismisses most of the claims made by the auditors and suggests senior city officials are trying to rein in the special operating agency. More corporate oversight would be disastrous for the fleet management agency, he writes.

"If you want a project to fail, or at least be delayed, the central departments can be counted on to find a way to achieve this," he says of the city's finance and internal services departments.

It is not customary for former city officials to comment on current audits. Former London Limos owner-operator Herbert Hajer was hired as Lupien's replacement.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 4, 2010 B1

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