At last night's council meeting: Ville de Montréal Auditor General tables his
report on the process for acquiring and installing water meters

MONTREAL, Sept. 22 /CNW Telbec/ - Jacques Bergeron, Auditor General of the Ville de Montréal, tabled at last night's city council meeting his report on auditing the overall process for acquiring and installing water meters in Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) locations, and for optimizing the entire water network for the Montréal agglomeration.

This report follows City Council's April 21 instructions to Mr. Bergeron to conduct an audit. The report highlights several administrative irregularities, poor management, lack of rigour and several omissions of relevant information for elected officials.

Assessing the price of the ICI contract as too high, the Auditor General said his review of documents and the interviews he conducted led him to conclude that "it is appropriate to examine all possibilities regarding continuation of the ICI and Network Optimization project in its present form, including cancelling the contract awarded to GÉNleau... ".

In his 176-page document containing 58 findings and 26 recommendations, the Auditor General looks at the unexpected addition of a second element to the water meters project: network optimization (real-time management of the network). He expresses "serious reservations about the way the initial project was modified and the speed with which the new network optimization element - which is very substantial from both the monetary and technology perspectives - was introduced and approved by the individuals responsible for the file." In other words, the initial mandate to install water meters in ICI locations was altered along the way.

The Auditor General believes that the ICI and Network Optimization project "does not meet current needs and does not optimize the cost-benefit ratio for the City."

As for ethnics and governance, the audit revealed that some meetings between representatives of the City and certain external partners involved in the ICI and Network Optimization project were scheduled during the call for qualifications in 2006 and between the call for qualifications and the call for proposals won by GÉNIeau. "We cannot confirm if these meetings took place or the subject of these meetings," the Auditor General writes in his report. "However, this information appears to raise doubts about the close ties between these individuals and about the influence that these meetings could have had on the development of the project."

Noting that he cannot comment further on this situation, since the file has been handed over to the Sûreté du Québec, the Auditor General does, however, add that calls for qualifications and calls for tenders should be much clearer as regards their instructions about complete independence between the City and its external partners, and between the external partners themselves.

Main findings

The main findings of the Auditor General's report are:

    
    - The calls for qualifications and call for tenders or proposals that led
      to contracts with BPR (February 2005) and GÉNleau (November 2007) were
      not approved beforehand by the City's Executive Committee;

    - Decision summaries submitted to the Executive Committee said nothing
      about the state of progress of the ICI project between May 2004 and
      November 2007;

    - The network optimization element was not part of the first BRP mandate
      (installation of water meters in ICI locations). This aspect became an
      integral part of their mandate, with the decision being taken in an
      improvised fashion. The changes made to the call for proposals process
      raise questions about the thoroughness of the analysis done of the
      specifications mentioned in the initial call for proposals;

    - These changes would have required a new call-for-qualifications process
      and, as a result, a new call for tenders to allow businesses that had
      or would have had an interest in bidding to compete on equal footing;

    - Apparently, neither BPR, nor the City's project management office, nor
      its finance department, conducted an economic study of the expected
      benefits of the project, particularly the network optimization element;

    - The mandate given to BPR included several deliverables, some of which
      were not provided to the City;

    - Splitting the contract into several contracts of smaller scope would
      have provided certain economic benefits for the City;

    - Removing the project financing requirement at the call for proposals
      phase significantly undermines the very legitimacy of the process;

    - The contract awarded to GÉNleau totals $618 million, not $356 million,
      taking into account various additional fees;

    - The contract was awarded to GÉNleau in a way that did not encourage
      obtaining the best price;

    - The network optimization element of the water meters project does not
      meet the priority needs of the City at the current stage in the
      waterworks plan;

    - Based on the needs identified by the City, the ICI element appears to
      warrant the installation of water meters in ICI locations and a
      rate-setting process, as planned;

    - The City's legal department was not actively involved in the file from
      the outset, despite the scope of the project.
    

Recommendations

The Auditor General therefore recommends that the network optimization concept be revisited and its implementation envisaged at a later phase. In addition, before proceeding with work on this element, it would be necessary to locate major leaks and restore these pipes.

Regarding ethics and governance, he recommends the organization of ethics training for the elected officials, senior managers, supervisors and personnel involved in the contract procurement, acquisitions and implementation process. Governance practices for the management process should be reviewed. The City should create a study committee to review control mechanisms as well as the governance of the City of Montreal.

For its part, City Council should appoint a committee made up of independent experts to examine the overall management process for the two other waterworks projects, including the action plan for the water mains and sewers networks, and the inspection and application of standards for water plants.

The Ville de Montreal should strengthen its internal expertise in developing and managing complex projects in order to counterbalance approaches and solutions proposed by outside firms.

The other recommendations of the Auditor General are:

    
    - The City's legal department should report directly to the General
      Manager so as to ensure the separation of functions from other City
      departments;

    - Calls for tenders for some large contracts should be accessible to
      firms outside Québec, without penalizing companies that have never
      dealt with the City;

    - The City should conduct a systematic and thorough evaluation of
      expected benefits before starting a project.
    

The mandate of the Auditor General of the Ville de Montreal is to audit the accounts and business of the City and of every legal entity in which the City or an agent of the City holds more than a 50% interest or 50% of the outstanding voting shares or appoints more than 50% of the members of the board of directors. He also provides City Council, in an independent and objective way, advice on the reliability of accounts and assessments of the management of municipal affairs so as to improve quality.

SOURCE Ville de Montréal - Bureau du vérificateur général

For further information: For further information: Patricia Lowe, Media Relations, Ville de Montreal, (514) 872-5467; Source: Office of the Auditor General


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