Snags in Hill re­vamp: doc­u­ment

Around one-third of projects lag­ging

SundayXtra - - NEWS CANADA - By Dean Beeby

OT­TAWA — Pub­lic Works says its multi­bil­lion-dol­lar makeover of Par­lia­ment Hill is right on sched­ule, but an in­ter­nal doc­u­ment casts doubts on that claim.

The depart­ment has awarded it­self top marks for on-time de­liv­ery of ma­jor projects in the par­lia­men­tary precinct, say­ing more than 90 per cent have met their dead­lines.

The 90 per cent tar­get was set in 2012 af­ter the depart­ment came un­der fire from thenau­di­tor gen­eral Sheila Fraser and oth­ers for weak ac­count­abil­ity over the ex­pen­sive re­fur­bish­ing of the crum­bling build­ings, in­clud­ing the West Block.

But Pub­lic Works’ most re­cent re­port card shows only about 70 per cent of all projects are ac­tu­ally on time.

The rest are be­hind sched­ule — some of them by a long way — but the depart­ment gives it­self good grades any­way be­cause it ei­ther plans to ad­just the sched­ule to ac­com­mo­date strag­gling projects or find a way to catch up.

These late projects — coded yel­low, rather than green — are there­fore counted as on time, mask­ing a po­ten­tially trou­bled de­liv­ery sched­ule.

“When mea­sur­ing re­sults, green and yel­low rat­ings are con­sid­ered to be on tar­get,” says an in­ter­nal Pub­lic Works re­port, ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press un­der the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act af­ter a five-month de­lay.

“Where projects were as­sessed a yel­low rat­ing, ac­tion plans and mit­i­ga­tion mea­sures were put in place, which is why these projects are con­sid­ered to be on tar­get.”

Re­move the yel­low projects, and aver­age on­time per­for­mance falls to 70 per cent over­all.

One project to im­prove tech­nol­ogy through­out the build­ings falls well be­low 30 per cent for on-time de­liv­ery. Cap­i­tal con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tions, the two big­gest project ar­eas, are each at about 80 per cent for on-time de­liv­ery.

The in­ter­nal re­port, dated Aug. 20 last year, is the most re­cent an­nual ac­count­ing of the money spent fix­ing up the his­toric struc­tures on Par­lia­ment Hill and area.

From 2001 un­til March 31 this year, the var­i­ous projects have cost tax­pay­ers $1.4 bil­lion, with bil­lions more to be spent for fur­ther work, es­pe­cially on the Cen­tre Block, home of the House of Commons and Se­nate cham­ber.

A con­sul­tant hired by Pub­lic Works in 2006 es­ti­mated the to­tal cost could be $5 bil­lion over 25 years, but the num­ber was only pre­lim­i­nary in the ab­sence of clear in­for­ma­tion about the re­pair work needed, in­clud­ing time-con­sum­ing restora­tion of century- old stonework.

The depart­ment has cost con­tin­gen­cies of up to 25 per cent built into its fi­nan­cial projections to ac­count for the un­cer­tain­ties in pre­serv­ing her­itage build­ings, some dat­ing back to 1859. Mod­ern con­struc­tion projects typ­i­cally in­clude 10 per cent cost con­tin­gen­cies.

Pub­lic Works de­fends its con­fla­tion of green and yel­low rat­ings, say­ing it is “con­sis­tent with de­part­men­tal reporting prac­tices.”

Said spokes­woman An­nie Trepanier: “The projects with a yel­low rat­ing re­main within ap­proved pa­ram­e­ters.

“A yel­low rat­ing flags that additional ef­forts may be re­quired in one or more ar­eas in or­der to main­tain the project within ap­proved pa­ram­e­ters.”

One project that’s ear­marked for the forth­com­ing ren­o­va­tions to the Cen­tre Block — so-called busi­ness con­ti­nu­ity plan­ning for the House of Commons — was flagged “red” ear­lier this year for be­ing so far be­hind sched­ule.

That project has since been re­moved from the re­port card, Trepanier said, be­cause it is “no longer con­sid­ered vi­able and was put on hold.”

Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the West Block, the big­gest cur­rent project at over $1 bil­lion, is about onethird com­plete. The build­ing will even­tu­ally be­come the tem­po­rary home of the House of Commons when MPs va­cate the Cen­tre Block to make way for ma­jor ren­o­va­tions there.

The Se­nate will move from its Cen­tre Block cham­ber into a nearby govern­ment con­fer­ence cen­tre, for­merly Ot­tawa’s cen­tral rail­way sta­tion.

— The Cana­dian Press


A con­struc­tion worker lifts ma­te­ri­als to the sec­ond storey of the Cen­tre Block on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa.

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