Vic­to­ria hid­ing $ 170m in Games cost: au­dit

GOVERN­MENT Re­view tab­u­lated ex­penses that we don’t, min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble says

Vancouver Sun - - Westcoast News - BY BRUCE CONSTANTIN­EAU VAN­COU­VER SUN

The B. C. govern­ment has hid­den at least $ 170 mil­lion from the true cost of stag­ing the 2010 Olympics and its $ 600mil­lion Games bud­get could go a lot higher, Au­di­tor-Gen­eral John Doyle warned Fri­day.

“ I think they could be more trans­par­ent and I'm the third au­di­tor-gen­eral in a row to say this,” he said in an in­ter­view.

Doyle said “ fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences of opin­ion” still ex­ist be­tween his of­fice and the govern­ment about what con­sti­tutes a Games cost.

He said the $ 170 mil­lion in costs not counted by govern­ment in­clude $ 47 mil­lion for the 2010 Win­ter Games Sec­re­tariat, $ 21 mil­lion for pavil­ions in Turin and Bei­jing, $ 15 mil­lion from BC Hy­dro, $ 15 mil­lion from B. C. Lot­tery Corp. and $ 6 mil­lion from ICBC.

“ We need to bring all ex­penses to­gether in one re­port that shows ev­ery­thing and al­lows cit­i­zens to see what the fi­nan­cial foot­print is for the Games,” Doyle said.

“ I'd also like to see com­ple­tion of the ben­e­fits model so cit­i­zens can have the en­tire pic­ture of how the whole process is go­ing.”

A 2006 re­port from for­mer au­di­tor­gen­eral Arn van Iersel put the govern­ment's true Olympics costs at around $ 2.5 bil­lion. That es­ti­mate in­cluded SeatoSky High­way im­prove­ments and Canada Line costs the govern­ment feels are un­re­lated to stag­ing the Games.

Af­ter work­ing much of this year on an updated Games au­dit, Doyle pro­duced a re­port and the govern­ment drafted a five-page re­sponse but he chose not to re­lease them.

“ When I looked at all the in­for­ma­tion I had and re­leased a de­tailed re­port, I would be say­ing the same thing that I could say on one page in a let­ter,” he said.

Doyle did re­lease a copy of a let­ter he sent this week to leg­is­la­ture Speaker Bill Barisoff, where he warned that fi­nan­cial risks as­so­ci­ated with some costs and rev­enues have not been ad­e­quately dis­closed.

“ Should th­ese risks come to pass, the cost of stag­ing the Games could es­ca­late con­sid­er­ably,” he says in the let­ter.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colin Hansen, the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the Olympics, said he was sur­prised at the tone of the let­ter be­cause it im­plies the govern­ment has been hid­ing some­thing.

“ If you read their re­port and our re­sponse, it gives the pub­lic a pretty good pic­ture of where things are at,” he said. “ That's my frus­tra­tion. It's up to him to re­lease those doc­u­ments and I urge him to do so.”

Hansen in­sisted the govern­ment's $ 600-mil­lion Games bud­get is still on track and said the $ 170 mil­lion in ex­tra costs noted by Doyle are not rel­e­vant to stag­ing the Games. He said an arena ren­o­va­tion in Kim­ber­ley was in­cluded as one of those ex­tra costs.

“ Lots of peo­ple have dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tions of what should or should not be an Olympic-re­lated cost,” he said. “ But all of the in­for­ma­tion is pub­lic and peo­ple can add up what­ever num­bers they want.”

Hansen said the only un­cer­tain cost right now is the cost of Games se­cu­rity, which the fed­eral govern­ment ad­mits will shoot up from $ 175 mil­lion to more than $ 400 mil­lion. He said the prov­ince is still try­ing to de­ter­mine its share of any higher se­cu­rity costs.

“[ Doyle] flags that as one of the risks and we agree with him,” Hansen said. “ We're in the mid­dle of de­ter­min­ing that now.”

Doyle said the Van­cou­ver Olympic or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee's cur­rent $ 1.6-bil­lion, break-even op­er­at­ing bud­get is un­der pres­sure now be­cause of the eco­nomic down­turn and he looks for­ward to see­ing its re­vised bud­get early next year.

He said while Vanoc needs to im­prove its bud­get as­sump­tions, he gave it credit for hav­ing most Olympic venues near com­ple­tion.

“ While costs have ex­ceeded the orig­i­nal bud­get, I am pleased to re­port that, on the whole, [ Vanoc] has done a good job of man­ag­ing the timely com­ple­tion of venue con­struc­tion un­der their con­trol,” Doyle wrote in his let­ter to Barisoff.

He rec­om­mends the govern­ment ex­pand its def­i­ni­tion of Games-re­lated costs and re­port pub­licly on the costs and the risks as­so­ci­ated with them.

“ Govern­ment should be con­fi­dent enough to clearly ex­plain what it is do­ing as it's do­ing it,” Doyle said. “ There's no need to be any­thing but to­tally trans­par­ent.”

NDP Olympics critic Harry Bains said the govern­ment is do­ing a dis­ser­vice to tax­pay­ers by con­stantly butting heads w i t h t h e a u d i t o r - g e n e r a l a b o u t Olympics costs.

“ The au­di­tor-gen­eral is one of­fice that rises above po­lit­i­cal bias to give tax­pay­ers a true pic­ture of ex­pen­di­tures,” he said. “ This govern­ment con­tin­ues to fight with him and frus­trate that of­fice.”

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