Well we have three Audits or reviews completed and we don’t have the answers we were looking for. The reason is simple. If you don’t ask the tough questions you won’t get the answers. Even then, there is no guarantee we will get the answers to the questions the people of Winnipeg want and deserve.
The two audits by Ernst & Young and the one almost audit by KPMG (I only call it an almost audit as KPMG indicated they only had ten weeks to complete and not the time to get all the detail they may have needed) and we are still left wondering. We have found out and to no one’s surprise that all three audits come to the same conclusion. There are problems with protocols, procedures, process and transparency. There are issues relating to not sharing information, sharing information to soon with selected parties, perceived favoritism and a general mishandling of some major projects costing the City of Winnipeg Taxpayers millions of dollars.
Let’s not forget KPMG indicated that ‘We got value for our dollar” in the building of the new Police Headquarters. That never was the question the taxpayers wanted answered. It may have been the question the Mayor and at least some councillors wanted answered. If we looked at other options and instead of spending 210 million on the new Police Headquarters could we have renovated the existing building as an example. Let’s say that cost us even 50 million dollars. We still would have 160 million that could be spent elsewhere.
How about road repair, parks, bike lanes and even development in other areas?
How about fixing the downtown parkade or even looking at the Pumphouse site and meeting with the community and developing it according to what the City by-laws and plans indicated?
What about looking at developing multi-use, walkable communities, improving Public Transit, incentives to encourage more green initiatives?
The list is endless of course. The value for dollar answer is in essence meaningless. This was a major project the Mayor and councillors were not elected to do and they did not consult with the people who will end up paying for it. Don’t get me wrong in the end after consultation and a proper process we may have still built Police Headquarters as is. The difference being we would have followed a process, been transparent, used a tendering process and may have waited for 100% of the plans to be complete before making such an important decision. We would have made an informed decision.
After all is said and done we can’t change the past. The real estate deals are done. The Fire Halls are built (be it one of them on land we didn’t own) and the Police Headquarters are built at a cost of at least $210 million dollars. However we are still left with unanswered questions.
Taxpayers wanted these questions answered:
1) Why did we need a broker or independent real estate agent to purchase the property? City Officials indicated they could do the job?
2) Why and who authorized the building of Police Headquarters with only 30% of the plans in place?
3) When warned by City Officials of people becoming concerned over favoritism towards one developer why was that ignored?
In an excerpt from: Black Rod Blogspot from July 15th, 2014
“In the transactions where an external advisor was retained, there wasno documentation explaining the rationale why an external advisor was required for that particular transaction.” stated the audit.
“There was no documentation evidencing the selection process undertaken to determine which of the prequalified proponents to engage in all cases where an external advisor was retained.”
Here, maybe, is why…
* Of $1.2 million paid to advisors and brokers on four contracts, $1.1 million, or 95 percent, went to one of them…
4) Were Conflict of Interest guidelines broken?
5) Why wasn’t the Mayor more aware of what was happening in these major projects, especially after all the concerns started to surface?
6) How much did the EPC know and when? What about councillors? Why are they not asking the questions we want answered?
7) What about the media? Watergate would have never been exposed if it wasn’t for the media.
8) Why was Phil Sheegl let go before the audits became public?
There are many more questions we want answers to. We also want accountability. It is too easy to make the middle managers the scapegoats for the lack of or misinformation about projects. We want accountability from the people in charge. How refreshing it would be to hear the Mayor stand-up and say “I should have known. Ultimately I am responsible. Here are the mistakes I made. Here is how we are going to fix it.”
Oh wait … is that a singing pig flying over a blue moon playing Beethoven’s Fifth.
I think a flying, singing, piano playing pig is more likely to happen than politicians holding themselves accountable and to the high expectations elected officials should be held to.