Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City hall pressed to audit police HQ

Could be done before election: proponents

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PRESSURE is mounting on city hall to conduct an audit of the troubled police headquarters project.

During a news briefing at city hall Monday, Colin Craig, Prairie director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and Mike Davison, president of CUPE Local 500, said they believe an audit can be done at a reasonable cost and in a short time.

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Joining Craig and Davidson was retired auditor Graham Lane, former chairman of the Public Utilities Board, who said an audit before the October municipal election is doable.

"If council wants the audit complete and made public before the election this fall, it can easily be done," said Lane.

He said an audit of a single project, such as the police headquarters, would be less costly and quickly done, compared to the audit of the fire-hall replacement program and the ongoing audit of city real estate transactions.

This is the second time Craig has joined with a labour group to demand a police-headquarters audit.

A week ago, Craig and Winnipeg Labour Council president David Sauer staged a news conference opposite the police HQ building, then returned to city hall two days later to congratulate two members of the executive policy committee -- Couns. Brian Mayes and Jeff Browaty -- who were initially opposed to the audit but now say they will support one.

Mayor Sam Katz said last week his EPC will likely bring a motion to council supporting an audit but cautioned it wouldn't be completed until after the Oct. 22 civic election.

A motion for an audit was narrowly defeated in November by a vote of 9-7. But if Browaty and Mayes switch their votes and other members of EPC join them, another vote would easily pass.

"An audit can be delivered for a reasonable cost and within a short time frame if council and the administration make it a priority," Craig said.

Couns. Paula Havixbeck and Jenny Gerbasi said they will bring a motion to the Jan. 29 council meeting, calling for an outside firm to conduct an audit and present its findings by June 1. The Havixbeck-Gerbasi motion requires all members of the administration involved in the project to be questioned as part of the audit process.

The cost of the police headquarters project, which is at the former Canada Post building downtown, increased to $210 million from $135 million in 2009. Council was told in 2009 the $135-million cost was a guaranteed maximum price, but that was misleading, as the figure was based on only 30 per cent of the plans being completed.

Most of the cost increases were the result of key items omitted from the initial budget.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2014 A3

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