Workers in the fall of 2009 install a protective barrier on the north end of the West Block during renovations. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))

The West Block of Parliament needs urgent repair and could face a "total failure" of its heating, cooling and electrical systems in three years if work isn't completed soon, Canada's auditor general says.

Auditor General Sheila Fraser said her office has been sounding warnings that repairs to the Parliament Buildings are not moving quickly enough, but she said work has been slow because there are too many agencies involved.

"This is the third audit that the office has done on this … [and we've been] indicating each time that the buildings are deteriorating," said Fraser in issuing her report on Tuesday.

"I think by addressing the question of who is actually managing the project and how it's being done … we're getting to the core issues for some of the delays over the years," she said.

The renovations have been continuing off and on for more than 20 years. In 2007 the government implemented a multibillion-dollar 25-year plan to repair, refurbish and maintain existing parliamentary facilities and provide additional facilities.

Public Works handles the work but needs Treasury Board approval for money. The House of Commons and the Senate have a say, however, in when work is done so that it doesn't disrupt sessions of Parliament or work in offices.

MPs moving from offices

Getting work done efficiently requires better co-ordination between the different stakeholders, she said.

Doing the work quickly is also a priority, she said, particularly in the West Block, which holds the offices of Members of Parliament.

"The West Block has been assessed as being in critical condition," she said.

"The stone work has a lot of cracks and is crumbling. There's asbestos in the building. There's major work that has to be done so there is a project underway," said Fraser. The electrical and temperature systems in the buildings are also in danger of a "total failure" by 2013, she said. 

Repairs to the West Block require the MPs to move out to accommodate the repairs, she said. Once that work is complete, repairs to the Centre Block can be completed, with the House of Commons moving to the West Block temporarily.

Public Works has estimated the cost to repair the West Block and find alternative space during repairs at $1.18 billion.

With files from The Canadian Press