Coun. Wyatt calls for inquiry into police HQ audit

Winnipeg city councillors delved deeper into an audit of massive cost overruns for the construction of the new police headquarters on Wednesday.

Winnipeg city council asking questions about KPMG audit of police headquarters construction overruns

City councillors voted Wednesday in favour of a motion tabled by Coun. Paula Havixbeck to refer the police headquarters audit for further review by the province 1:57

Councillor Russ Wyatt wants the province to call an inquiry into the recent Winnipeg police headquarters audit and associated dealings at city hall.

"There seems to be a pattern, if you like, in terms of all these audits with similar type issues being raised over and over again that I think it does warrant a public inquiry," said Coun. Wyatt.

Coun. Wyatt said three troubling audits on city real estate deals prove more probing is needed on how the city operates.

There have been enough questions raised over the audit to warrant the premier and the Manitoba government’s attention, said Wyatt.

"A full independent from the city, judicial public inquiry would allow us to get some answers that I think are still outstanding,” he said. “And hopefully help restore the confidence and trust that we need to restore in our municipal government."

Coun. Wyatt said he thinks it's up to Winnipeggers to put pressure on the government for a review of the audit.

Council votes 'yes' to audit review

Winnipeg city councillors delved deeper into an audit of massive cost overruns for the construction of the new police headquarters on Wednesday. 

Early Wednesday afternoon, city councillors voted in favour of a motion tabled by Coun. Paula Havixbeck to refer the audit for review by the province.

Swandel accused fellow councillors of grandstanding after they voted in favour of sending the audit into the new police headquarters downtown to the province's justice department for review.

"People should just relax on this, we've done our work on this for today."

The motion passed 11 to five in favour of sending the audit for review by the province.

Mayor Sam Katz, Coun. Grant Nordman, Coun. Harvey Smith, Coun. Justin Swandel and Coun. Devi Sharma all opposed the motion, while the remaining 11 council members voted in favour.

Wednesday was also the last council meeting before summer break.

Councillors were given the KPMG report on Tuesday, after ordering an external audit on the $210-million building.

The project to convert a Canada Post building on Graham Avenue into the new police headquarters, was forecast to cost $135 million in 2009.

But by the fall of 2013, councillors learned the costs had ballooned to $210 million.

An audit of the project was called, and on Tuesday the report was made available to councillors.

On Wednesday, council gathered for a regularly-scheduled meeting and asked questions of KPMG auditors.

Coun. Paula Havixbeck and Coun. Jenny Gerbasi introduced a motion Wednesday afternoon to have Manitoba Justice review the audit to make sure municipal laws were followed and to "restore public trust."

What did the report find?

The report found what it called “gaps” between how the project was handled and what the city’s actual policies were.

"There is evidence to suggest that the city’s failure to effectively manage the progress and quality of the design may have caused delays,” the report read.

There were also a large number of changes to plans for the building, which resulted in almost $20 million in changes to the original budget.

The report also found there were issues with reporting cost overruns and delays back to city council.

The city has paid about $7 million in interest charges since the project began.

Some of those extra costs could have been avoided, according to the report.

Former CAO Phil Sheegl was directly implicated in how the deal was handled. Sheegl was given full power to approve and award contracts on the project.

Coun. John Orlikow said Wednesday it is common practise at city hall for council to delegate authority to CAO's when it comes to land deals.

Regardless, he has regret and said council needs to share some of the blame.

"We shouldn't be giving the CAO this much power," said Coun. Orlikow. "This may evolve still, this could evolve still, it has to evolve ... so we need to be, as councillors, taking responsibility for this and not throwing people under the bus."

Sheegl has become a controversial figure after a damning fire hall land swap audit found a land deal was poorly managed under his purview.

CBC contacted Sheegl Tuesday, who said, "I've got nothing to say." 

Councillors were expected to ask questions of KPMG on the audit’s content for much of the day on Wednesday, and vote on adopting recommendations in the report.

Last week, councillors looked at a real estate audit, which also included the city’s purchase of the former Canada Post location.

On Wednesday, Coun. Mayes introduced a motion to ask for an additional council meeting next Wednesday to speak specifically about that real estate audit, but it was later defeated.

Read the full audit below