Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Councillors grill official over audit

Wyatt, Havixbeck cite lingering issues

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Winnipeg City Councillor Paula Havixbeck

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Winnipeg City Councillor Paula Havixbeck Photo Store

COUNCILLORS surprised a senior administrator when they suspended committee rules at a Thursday meeting to question CFO Mike Ruta about the KPMG audit.

Couns. Russ Wyatt and Paula Havixbeck spent 50 minutes questioning Ruta over lingering issues from the damning audit into the conversion of the old downtown Canada Post warehouse into the new police headquarters building.

Several times, acting city solicitor Krista Boryskavich intervened during the questioning -- claiming questions were inappropriate because of council's request for Manitoba Justice to review the audit, and questions should be put to Ruta in writing and he should be allowed him time to respond, in writing. She also said the questions were beyond the jurisdiction of the finance committee.

But Wyatt (Transcona) and Havixbeck (Charleswood-Tuxedo) ignored Boryskavich, and continued to question Ruta over what he knew about questionable management decisions on the troubled project.

Why there wasn't the kind of due diligence that should have been done to manage this project as it went forward is really shocking'

-- Coun. Russ Wyatt

"It's important to ask questions why things happened and, more importantly, why other things didn't happen, and why things happened for the reason they did," Wyatt said following the meeting, adding he didn't warn Ruta ahead of time that he would be questioned. "Why there wasn't the kind of due diligence that should have been done to manage this project as it went forward is really shocking."

It was Wyatt, chairman of the committee, who requested the committee rule be suspended when the agenda was completed and kept the meeting going.

Only Coun. Grant Nordman didn't ask Ruta any questions and he left after 10 minutes, citing he had to participate in a telephone conference call.

The project was approved by council in 2009 with a $135 million budget but that skyrocketed to $210 million. The conversion is nearly complete and police will begin moving in the fall.

The KPMG audit found civic officials failed to follow city procedures put in place to manage the design, procurement and construction of major projects; and the city lacks many essential policies and procedures to govern administrative handling of such projects.

The questioning of Ruta came a day after council accepted the KPMG audit but a motion to hold a special meeting next week, to question administration about the audit and the EY audit of 33 real estate transactions released last week, was defeated in a 12-4 vote. Wyatt and Havixbeck were on the losing side of that vote.

Mayor Sam Katz, who argued against a special meeting, said councillors could question the administration any time they wanted about the audit -- which Havixbeck repeatedly told Boryskavich when she tried to stop the questioning.

When Boryskavich said the questions were going beyond the jurisdiction of the committee, Havixbeck said all the issues are relevant to the committee.

Wyatt said later he hoped other councillors would use their committees to also question administration.

Wyatt said he remains concerned the administration oversight committee for the $210-million project failed to keep notes or minutes of their meetings, except for one.

"This turned out to be a $210-million project and it seemed to me the project management was very loosey-goosey," Wyatt said.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

If you could ask city hall officials one question, what would you ask? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 18, 2014 B1

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Updated on Friday, July 18, 2014 at 6:26 AM CDT: Adds photo, adds question for discussion, formats sidebar

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