‘Ac­tions taken’ on tun­nel

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - RON­ALD ZAJAC Rza­jac@post­media.com

City hall has al­ready taken ac­tions in re­sponse to the un­ex­pected $2.1-mil­lion deficit from the rail­way tun­nel pro­ject, Mayor David Hen­der­son said.

How­ever, when pressed for de­tails, the mayor would not elab­o­rate fur­ther on those ac­tions, cit­ing the need for sen­si­tiv­ity in re­la­tion to per­son­nel mat­ters.

The mayor made the com­ments at city coun­cil’s reg­u­lar meet­ing as mem­bers quickly voted to ac­cept a foren­sic au­dit on the mat­ter.

City hall or­dered the foren­sic au­dit in the wake of the tun­nel restora­tion pro­ject’s un­ex­pected deficit of nearly $2.1 mil­lion.

The au­di­tors found that poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the city and the vol­un­teer com­mit­tee spear­head­ing the pro­ject, in­ad­e­quate fi­nan­cial re­port­ing and fundrais­ing ef­forts that dried up a year into the pro­ject all con­trib­uted to the short­fall.

City coun­cil has since voted to cover the tun­nel deficit in a new deben­ture is­sue to­talling $2,749,901, which in­cludes other cap­i­tal work.

The au­di­tors made eight rec­om­men­da­tions:

* Clear terms of ref­er­ence for “com­mu­nity-led com­mit­tees” that de­fine the roles of all par­ties in­volved, re­port­ing struc­tures, poli­cies, spend­ing lim­its and sign­ing au­thor­i­ties;

* a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the city ’s fi­nance depart­ment on the com­mu­nity-led com­mit­tee;

* “for­mal­ized pe­ri­odic fi­nan­cial re­port­ing ”;

* the in­clu­sion of any bud­get vari­ances in com­mu­nity-led projects in the quar­terly over­all bud­get vari­ance reports go­ing be­fore coun­cil­lors, with a re­quire­ment that coun­cil be flagged if a pro­ject goes too far over bud­get;

* fi­nan­cial indicators to be used “as a point at which fu­ture ac­tiv­i­ties on the pro­ject should be dis­cussed”;

* not ap­prov­ing con­tracts “solely based on the of­fer of in-kind do­na­tions,” or if these are ap­proved, hav­ing a “clear frame­work” to en­sure these bids are lower than com­peti­tors’;

* re­quir­ing that devel­op­ment con­cepts for projects be submitted ini­tially, “to es­tab­lish the com­plete pro­ject vi­sion prior to the ini­tial bud­get es­tab­lish­ment”;

* a re­view of con­flict of in­ter­est dis­clo­sure poli­cies and the way they are com­mu­ni­cated.

Coun­cil­lor son Tues­day ap­proved with­out dis­cus­sion a mo­tion to re­ceive the KPMG au­dit and re­fer it to staff for im­ple­men­ta­tion of those rec­om­men­da­tions.

Once the vote was done, Hen­der­son noted city of­fi­cials took the deficit se­ri­ously.

“It has been a long process,” said the mayor.

“There has now been a se­ries of three dif­fer­ent reports.”

They in­clude the KPMG au­dit, the city’s reg­u­lar an­nual fi­nan­cial au­dit, which placed a spe­cial em­pha­sis on the tun­nel sit­u­a­tion, and an ini­tial in­ter­nal analysis.

“There have been some ac­tions taken rel­a­tive to those reports al­ready,” added the mayor.

Asked later about the na­ture of those ac­tions, Hen­der­son de­clined to com­ment.

“Suf­fice it to say that some ac­tions have been taken.”

Within a day of the city first re­ceiv­ing the KPMG au­dit in July, city coun­cil dis­missed then city man­ager Bob Cas­sel­man.

Hen­der­son at the time cau­tioned against draw­ing con­clu­sions about the tim­ing of Cas­sel­man’s de­par­ture and the tun­nel au­dit. He said that the fi­nal week of July was the last time the coun­cil could make staffing changes be­cause of pro­vin­cial “lame-duck” rules, which in­flu­enced the tim­ing of Cas­sel­man’s exit.

RON­ALD ZAJAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

Brockville Mayor David Hen­der­son speaks at city coun­cil's reg­u­lar meet­ing on Tues­day.

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