TORONTO, March 31, 2015 /CNW/ - The union that represents 10,000 Toronto Transit Commission operations and maintenance staff is warning that the decision by TTC CEO Andy Byford to give U.S. engineering giant Bechtel an $80 million sole-source, no-bid contract to take over management of the troubled Spadina Subway Expansion project is short circuiting public procurement policies in a misguided attempt to gain a few months on a critical segment of infrastructure that will likely last more than a hundred years.
"We're not disputing that TTC management needs to be saved from its incompetence," said Bob Kinnear, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. "We're troubled, however, that a company with an apparently sketchy record like Bechtel is being cast as the saviour in this civic drama of taxpayer fleecing."
Kinnear said it was disappointing that only two of eleven TTC Commissioners wanted to subject the project management "reset" contract to a bidding process in accordance with long-standing city procurement policies.
"We don't know if Bechtel is better or worse than others in this industry, but the history of issues surrounding them should compel us to take a little more time to check out who we're getting into bed with," Kinnear said. "Especially when it comes to transit."
Bechtel was the lead contractor in the infamous Boston "Big Dig" tunnel and transit project that was initially costed at $2.5 billion but ballooned to $14.6 billion. The Boston Globe alleged that over a billion dollars in waste was directly attributed to Bechtel mistakes, including a head-scratching failure to note the presence of the 19,600-seat Fleet Center arena in its design drawings. Bechtel was also one of several private partners in the disastrous London Underground "public private partnership," which cost UK taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
In 2012, according to Forbes magazine, a memo from the U.S. Department of Energy said that Bechtel was "incompetent to complete their role" as the design authority for a waste treatment plant at the world's largest radioactive waste site in Hanford, Washington.
"We hope that Council will correct this rash decision by the Commission to award a large contract to a company like Bechtel without the standard and sensible practice of evaluating bids from more than one company," said Kinnear.
"The extra time it will take to ensure we will get value for money will be nothing compared to the potential cost of a mistake that Bechtel has proven itself capable of."
SOURCE Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113
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