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Valid cause to watch city hall

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City hall has an integrity issue.

I have been watching city hall rather closely for about a year, since learning that the findings of the final report of the Southwest Corridor Stage 2 Alignment Study had been blatantly distorted, in order to produce a misleading case for redirecting the busway onto a western dogleg route, to serve the as-yet undeveloped Parker and Taylor Avenue lands.

A proper analysis of the consultants' data actually provides strong support for the original stage 2 route along the Pembina Highway/CN Letellier subdivision alignment.

But senior civic administrators insisted that the Parker route was best, and city councillors were swept along with visions of federal P3 grants and pre-election rapid transit announcements dancing in their heads.

I can assure you that while the city is wasting another $1.9 million on the functional design, the Parker route boondoggle will never be built. Not unless the city can "get her done" before the October civic election.

Now we have a new fiasco in the making, with a current price tag of $590 million. Apparently civic administrators are bundling together stage 2 of the transit corridor, the Jubilee Underpass, and the major Hugo-Calrossie Sewer project, and calling the scheme the "Capital Integration Project." On March 13, council's finance committee had ordered the chief administrative officer and the chief financial officer to provide a presentation on the rapidly morphing capital project at its April 10 meeting.

Only after some public wrangling did the administration finally show up, and then the director of Transit provided an off-hand, inadequate verbal commentary.

Who is in charge here, anyway?

The refusal to provide a presentation on the huge "Capital Integration Project" is just another example of the administrative behaviour I have been criticizing over the past year. There is evidence of scandalous behaviour in most major decisions dealing with real estate and construction.

The incompetent and/or unethical actions and omissions of many senior civic administrators were well-documented in the Ernst & Young Fire Paramedic Stations Construction Project Audit last September, and now we are waiting for the follow-up report on the roles and responsibilities of the mayor and councillors in that maladministration. We are also awaiting the external legal opinion requested regarding "potential illegal activity by the civic administration."

Sixteen months ago council also retained Ernst & Young to prepare a five-year real estate management audit because "there have been a series of real estate transactions from the Winnipeg Parkade sale to the water park proposal to the fire hall land swap that have left the public with the strong perception that something is wrong in our city hall."

The real estate management audit report was originally expected last summer, but as of today there is still no sign of it. I am asking, why not?

After voting 9-7 against ordering an audit of the ever-expanding $210-million Winnipeg Police Service headquarters construction project in December, members of council changed their minds and on January 29 ordered that an external audit be done and submitted to council before the end of June. Council also ordered monthly reports on the progress of the audit.

The contract for the police headquarters audit was not finally awarded until Thursday, leaving the June reporting deadline in jeopardy.

At the end of the April 10 finance committee meeting, the chief financial officer was finally moved to express his concern that my constant criticisms were "undermining the work being done by the public service."

Perhaps the CFO would care to explain why he himself apparently ignored and failed to follow the finance committee's March 13 directive, that the Winnipeg Public Service provide a schedule, at every meeting of the committee, of all major projects and the dates for the next reports.

The people who think I am undermining the normally high ethical and professional standards of the Winnipeg public service should look in the mirror instead.

 

David Sanders has 45 years' senior executive experience in public administration, private sector enterprises, management consulting, university teaching and administration, and real estate consulting.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2014 A11

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