The city auditor is criticizing Edmonton's roads design and construction branch for a lack of clarity in budgeting, poor cost-estimating practices and "overly optimistic" completion timelines.

"The operating and capital budget practices we observed prevent effective monitoring and reporting, increase the risk of making poor decisions and lack transparency," David Wiun states in the June 1 report.

The report focuses on several examples, including the Scona Road reconstruction and the Quesnell Bridge overhaul/Whitemud Drive widening, which should be completed in August, nearly 10 months behind schedule.

The Quesnell Bridge project was originally budgeted at $101 million. The cost doubled and then was scaled back.


The overhaul of the Quesnell Bridge and widening of Whitemud Driver is scheduled to wrap up in August. (CBC)

Now it isn't clear what the final price tag will be, though the auditor puts it in the range of $166.5 to $170.5 million, which is higher than the $160.7 million reported to councillors on the transportation and public works committee.

"The method of budgeting and adjusting budgets does not provide assurance that decision makers are aware of total project budgets," the report states.

As for the Scona Road project which started last month, the auditor writes: "the scope and budget ... are not adequately identified."

Coun. Tony Caterina calls the report scathing.

"The management of virtually everything — timelines, budgets, scope of work changes, personnel, I mean anything you can think of — the management of that has been very, very poor," he said.

City manager Simon Farbrother said the key message from the auditor is that the city needs to upgrade its systems for major capital projects.

"Our objective about using money wisely and effectively remains really important," he said.

Farbrother said the city has already started implementing some of the report's recommendations.