It’s amusingly pathetic to see city councillors react in horror and disbelief at the recent findings of an audit into the Springhill dump.
Their outrage is certainly misplaced.
In fact, it’s much more than that – it’s buckpassing at its very worst.
Certainly, there appears to been enough blame to go around. City staff, city politicians, Tomlinson, the Ministry of the Environment, at any time – any one of these could have stepped up and done something. There are any number of problems, lack of documentation, lack of clarity in their roles, bad bookkeeping, bad feelings – the list goes on about the problems with the contract between the city and Tomlinson.
Back in 2012, then auditor general Alain Lalonde was the first to release an audit of the Springhill dump.
That audit, which for some reason still remains ‘confidential’, was obtained by On the City, From the Burbs and reveals many of the same problems and similar recommendations to the one released this week.
Back then, members of the audit committee met on Nov. 29, 2012 – close enough to call it six years ago – to talk about the just-released Springhill dump audit. With legal issues swirling around them, committee members decided to defer the issue until the legal issues surrounding the relationship between the city and Tomlinson – which runs the dump – were resolved.
Who moved the motion to defer? That’s no other than Kanata Coun. Alan Hubley who did his blustery best this week – in his new role as audit chair – to huff and puff and insist he’s not going to take it anymore.
Just too bad it’s all false bravado and buck-passing.
Here’s the truth where Hubley is concerned.
Hubley was a member of the 2010 audit committee – charged with dealing with the 2011 audit, and more recently, became the new chair of the audit committee.
He’s known about the problems for years, has been in a unique position to address them, yet has done nothing. And now, he acts like a tough little man ready to rumble.
He’s not alone. West Carleton-March Coun. Eli El-Chantiry raised his serious concerns this week, in much the same way he did at the 2012 audit meeting. And Osgooge Coun. George Darouze? Where’s he been? This dump is in his ward and he is now a member of the audit committee.
City staff? As damning as some of AG Ken Hughes’ comments directed at the bureaucracy were, frankly, they got off lightly.
As it turns out, according to the audit released this week by Hughes, the problems surrounding the dump are almost as high as the dump itself – and sadly have been around for years. Here’s a little bit of what the 2011 recommended from the confidential report obtained by On the City, From the Burbs.
Recommendation No. 2 in the 2011 audit: That the City ensures that it is proactive in contract oversight and dispute management by monitoring contracts on a regular basis. In their response, city management concurred, saying it is proactive in contact oversight in dispute management by monitoring contracts on a regular basis.
In hindsight, with the full knowledge of the 2018 audit, the city’s response to recommendation number three on the 2011 audit is pretty much gobsmacking: “That when the city has won any aspects of an arbitration, it proceeds without delay in order to ensure that the benefits are achieved in a timely fashion.”
Sure, no problem replied the staff, agreeing with the recommendation – but then adding several caveats to that.
That clearly didn’t happen. And you have to begin questioning the value of audits if city staff simply provide lip service to the audit recommendations. Recommendation number four has the city manager regularly updating council on progress on outstanding issues between Tomlinson and the city. Not so much, but would have been very helpful.
All solid recommendations which appear, given the most recent audit, not to have been taken into consideration.
The dismal relationship between the city and Tomlinson Group over the operations of the Springhill landfill compelled Hughes to suggest city bosses consider freezing the company out of future contract opportunities.
“We’ve never taken a step like this and made a recommendation this severe, this important,” Hughes told the media on Thursday after tabling his damning audit of the Springhill contract. “But given the relationship that existed between the city and Tomlinson, we feel that it’s important that the city evaluate their relationship with Tomlinson based on the fact of their behaviour during the course of this contract.”
The landfill is just one of the contracts Tomlinson has with the city, in fact, has more than $250 million in contracts with the city.
Tomlinson couldn’t be reached for comment.
Keep in mind the first audit was done in 2011. What does that tell you? Yes, there were arbitration issues going on, doesn’t mean the city couldn’t have attempted to forge ahead with developing a better relationship to protect the city.
Once again, your tax dollars at work – or not.