Edmonton Journal

City's Blatchford targets lack proof, audit reveals

- LAUREN BOOTHBY lboothby@postmedia.com

Building out Blatchford could take longer and make Edmonton less money than expected because there's no proof to back the city's promised timelines and profits, an audit shows.

The city's in-house audit team was tasked with looking at whether the Blatchford redevelopm­ent office, responsibl­e for building Edmonton's flagship and award-winning sustainabl­e community, has a good system to track progress on its goals. No problems were identified with the budget.

“Overall we found that the Blatchford redevelopm­ent office does not have an effective system to track whether it is achieving all of its goals,” a new audit report states.

Edmonton city council's audit committee is set to review the results April 15.

While the auditor found the office has generally well-designed goals for profitabil­ity and timelines, proof to support the estimates for these topics could not be found.

Land sales to private developers were initially expected to finish by 2038 and make the city just under $45 million in profit. Two years ago, the timeline was changed to 2042 and profits forecast to $39 million.

However, the Blatchford office did not provide the auditor with any documentat­ion that shows how the timelines were developed. The profit estimates were based on assumption­s with old data or not based on any evidence at all, the auditor found.

“The targets for the timeline and expected profitabil­ity are unsupporte­d ( by evidence),” the audit states. “They did not have source data for timeline estimates ... some of the (2022) reforecast­ing assumption­s (for profitabil­ity targets) were not supported by evidence.”

The audit also found the office isn't analyzing new data that could change the estimates.

Sales data to the end of 2021 was used in the 2022 reforecast report for both measures. That reforecast assumed sales prices would climb three per cent per year, and 20.1 hectares of land would be sold by the end of 2023.

In fact, the average sale price dropped by 0.6 per cent annually and only 16.3 hectares had been sold by the end of 2023.

“The average sales price per hectare has not reached the amount estimated in the reforecast in any of the years of sales data,” the audit states.

The 2022 report also assumed six hectares of land would be sold per year but, excluding the onetime sale of 12.5 hectares to NAIT, an average of 1.1 hectares was sold for both 2022 and 2023.

Regularly collecting and analyzing data is important, the audit report states, because it will help the Blatchford office assess and demonstrat­e its progress in achieving its goals and can help it make good decisions.

The audit includes a list of recommenda­tions to improve progress in Blatchford and create greater transparen­cy for city council and the public. It says fixing problems with tracking and measuring performanc­e, data collection and analysis, will help city council and administra­tion make informed decisions when expectatio­ns are not being met.

“Regular and complete reporting, including variance explanatio­ns, would help the (office), council and Edmontonia­ns understand and evaluate Blatchford's progress,” the report states.

“Regularly updating measures based on actual performanc­e data helps the (office) make the right decisions for the developmen­t going forward.”

City administra­tion accepted all the recommenda­tions.

Apart from the budget, which had no problems, the team's energy and GHG-reduction goals are the most developed. This area still lacked verifiable and evidence-based explanatio­ns for not meeting goals or targets in some cases.

There were also some problems around goals or tracking results for affordable housing, density, green constructi­on and green-building standards.

Some of the office's business areas have good targets, but some aren't based in evidence or aren't documented. Some don't collect data or that data isn't analyzed. In other cases, progress isn't being reported regularly. The department also isn't explaining, at times, why it isn't meeting expectatio­ns and doesn't have plans to fix missteps.

The auditor recommends creating clearly defined goals, tracking how and when they are measured, collecting and analyzing data to see how they are progressin­g, and creating action plans to fix issues.

 ?? GREG SOUTHAM FILES ?? An audit has found the city's Blatchford redevelopm­ent office lacks a system to track whether it is achieving its goals.
GREG SOUTHAM FILES An audit has found the city's Blatchford redevelopm­ent office lacks a system to track whether it is achieving its goals.

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