Time for Manitobans to hear the whole story behind WPS HQ

Bribery was only half the story. The police headquarters building that cost Winnipeg taxpayers $50 million more than the promised $105 million was built by a committee of officials apparently ill-equipped to manage such a large and complex project.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

Opinion

Bribery was only half the story. The police headquarters building that cost Winnipeg taxpayers $50 million more than the promised $105 million was built by a committee of officials apparently ill-equipped to manage such a large and complex project.

Glenn Joyal, Chief Justice of Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench, has already determined that Phil Sheegl, the city’s chief administrative officer, took a generous bribe from Caspian Construction, the general contractor for the police headquarters project. That finding should have been enough to prompt provincial government intervention to protect city taxpayers.

A steady trickle of revelations, unearthed by an ongoing Free Press investigation, has brought to light fresh evidence of project maladministration under the leadership of Sam Katz, who was then mayor, and Mr. Sheegl.

But a steady trickle of revelations, unearthed by an ongoing Free Press investigation, has brought to light fresh evidence of project maladministration under the leadership of Sam Katz, who was then mayor, and Mr. Sheegl. Most recently, this newspaper learned of an October 2011 memo by Pat de Jong, a police department employee on the headquarters project team, showing the police department representatives on the team had no good basis for approving or disapproving design changes.

The five police department officials knew what the department needed in a headquarters, but they knew nothing of the history of the project or the impact of decisions they were asked to make. The general contractor, the police department and the design team were constantly at loggerheads, producing an ongoing crisis requiring daily attention. Money and time were wasted because the people involved were out of their depth.

Also begging for explanation is the curious role of the AECOM design firm that took part in January 2010 city management meetings about the project and was hired in August of that year to produce engineering drawings.

The drawings AECOM eventually provided were deemed to be incomplete and of doubtful value. After debate, the city paid the firm nearly the full amount they had been promised and agreed not to mention AECOM or make disparaging comments about its work. An outside expert reviewing the matter concluded the city had been sold a set of incomplete, non-code-compliant and non-functional drawings for $5.6 million.

The drawings AECOM eventually provided were deemed to be incomplete and of doubtful value. After debate, the city paid the firm nearly the full amount they had been promised and agreed not to mention AECOM or make disparaging comments about its work. An outside expert reviewing the matter concluded the city had been sold a set of incomplete, non-code-compliant and non-functional drawings for $5.6 million.

Litigation may eventually produce answers as to who should pay what to whom for the money wasted on the police headquarters project. The courts, however, cannot correct irresponsibility and incompetence in municipal administration.

Winnipeg needs an authority with relevant construction experience to shine a bright light on the municipality’s management of the police headquarters project and identify the reasons why it kept going off the rails and costing far too much taxpayer money.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Premier Heather Stefanson and her ruling Progressive Conservative party seem strangely hesitant to dig into the mysterious corners of this massive and notorious waste of money.

The city cannot usefully investigate itself. It’s up to the Manitoba government to create a commission of inquiry, empower it to demand answers and get to the bottom of this whole sad story.

Premier Heather Stefanson and her ruling Progressive Conservative party, normally so anxious to defend the interest of taxpayers and uphold careful use of public funds, seem strangely hesitant to dig into the mysterious corners of this massive and notorious waste of money. Their passivity in the face of accumulating evidence is starting to look too much like participation in a cover-up.

Mayor Brian Bowman and the council have asked the province for an inquiry. Evidence of the need for an inquiry has accumulated. The KPMG accounting firm was stymied in its audit of the project when senior city staff concealed relevant documents which have now come to light.

Enough evasion. The premier should call the inquiry and let the public learn how their money was thrown away.

Report Error Submit a Tip