Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Consultants defend report under grilling

Says interviews with top figures not needed

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The head of the consulting team that produced the scathing audit of Winnipeg's real estate transactions defended the final report before council Wednesday.

Mark Single of consulting firm EY fielded questions by councillors for three hours Wednesday, dismissing concerns Mayor Sam Katz and others have raised the audit is flawed because several individuals were not interviewed.

"We relied on facts, file documentation and responses from (planning and property department) staff," Single told councillors, adding it wasn't necessary to interview former CAO Phil Sheegl, Shindico president Sandy Shindleman or any other outside individuals involved in the real estate deals they examined.

Single and other members of EY's audit team were the focus of Wednesday's special council meeting, which dealt with the audit findings and its 17 recommendations to overhaul administrative procedures as they pertain to real estate transactions.

'We relied on facts, file documentation and responses from (planning and property department) staff'

Council ordered the independent audit in 2012, calling for a review of relevant real estate transactions.

The EY team reviewed 33 transactions dating back to 2007 and concluded there had been repeated breaches of procedures and policies.

Single spent about 45 minutes in the morning summarizing the audit findings and explaining to councillors how they conducted their work. He fielded questions for another two hours following the lunch break.

In response to Mayor Sam Katz's repeated attempts to dismiss the EY report as unreliable and not an audit, Single said his team complied with all the terms of council's request.

"For clarity, it was an audit of the City of Winnipeg's real estate processes, procedures and policies, carried out in accordance with an appropriate auditing framework," Single said, adding the 13-member EY team included accredited appraisers, accountants and a fraud expert.

In response to questioning from Coun. John Orlikow, Single said what the EY team uncovered was "troubling and concerning."

Later, Single said the most troubling aspects of the report were the absence of procedures on dealing with real estate transactions and the many incidents in which vital information was not provided to council.

Later, when questioned by councillors, acting CAO Deepak Joshi said there was no deliberate attempt to withhold information from council. Joshi said in hindsight, administration could have acted differently but added in context of events as they unfolded, staff believed it was acting appropriately.

Coun. Brian Mayes, a member of executive policy committee, said he accepted Single's explanations for the EY's approach, adding he doesn't believe failing to interview some former employees in any way undermines the validity of the audit.

However, Coun. Harvey Smith told reporters later he believes Sheegl and Shindleman, whose firm benefited from select treatment by city staff, should have been interviewed.

Smith said he doubts any good will come from the meeting unless council decides to terminate some senior administrators, singling out Joshi and planning director Barry Thorgrimson as two senior staffers who should be held responsible for the audit findings.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2014 B2

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