Metro Line contract plagued by mismanagement, lack of communication

The contract for signalling on the Metro LRT was poorly managed and poorly communicated to city council and senior city management, the city auditor has found.

Auditor's report details problems with signalling contract on long-delayed LRT line

Transportation general manager Dorian Wandzura said the city accepts all three of the auditor's recommendations.

The contract for signalling on the Metro LRT was poorly managed and poorly communicated to city council and senior city management, the city auditor has found.

In a report released Thursday, the auditor found no documentation in the first two and a half years of the contract showing the general manager of transportation was informed of the delays or that the information was passed to council.

The auditor also found the timelines for the project were "aggressive." 

Council didn't receive its first update until December 2013, about five months before the line was set to open, and more than two years after the contract was awarded to Thales Canada in May 2011. The ETS branch manager rarely received internal updates.

"Based on interviews and documentation, we believe that project management was not effective in the areas of Scheduling, Human Resource, and Communications," the report states.

"Contract management principles were also not applied consistently. This contributed to poor working relationships and failure to achieve project success."

Payment relied on Thales meeting preset benchmarks. However, in March 2012, ETS paid the company for six milestones before they were met "as a gesture of goodwill." The auditor notes the payment schedule has not ensured Thales met all of its deadlines. 

The auditor is recommending all major transportation projects follow consistent principles and methods and include ways to ensure and measure standards. The auditor also recommends the transportation general manager ensures that roles, responsibilities, communication and decision-making for major projects are clearly defined, assigned and communicated. 

The third recommendation is that the transportation general manager develop and use standard reporting practices for major projects. 

'Disappointing. Aggravating. Infuriating'

Councillors are scheduled to discuss the auditor's findings on Monday. 

Mayor Don Iveson reacted to the report shortly after it was released in a blog posting where he called the findings "Disappointing. Aggravating. Infuriating." 

The Metro Line from Churchill to NAIT station was completed in time for its original April 2014 opening date. But problems with the signalling system have kept the city from opening it to passengers. (CBC)
He said the auditor's report contains details he finds troubling, particularly the lack of communication between project managers and city council. 

This "made it all the more difficult for us to hold staff accountable and explain to the public what was going on," Iveson wrote. "For me, this is the most shocking finding and I suspect it will form the sharpest point of the arrow at Monday's audit committee meeting."

Iveson also blamed ETS for poorly managing the contract, adding that oversight from the transportation department was insufficient. 

"City council will hold both the city manager and the general manager of the transportation department accountable for meeting the action plans detailed in the report and ensuring these mistakes are never repeated," he wrote. 

"Changes have already been made, but more are needed, particularly around culture, and council will be monitoring this very closely."

Audit tough, but fair

Dorian Wandzura, the current general manager of transportation, said in a news conference that the city accepts all three of the auditor's recommendations. 

"This audit is tough but it's fair," Wandzura said. "It accurately characterizes the things that happened in 2010, 2011, 2012. And we expect better.  I expect better.

"I am disappointed. This project had all the opportunity to turn out differently."

Wandzura said three senior managers involved with the project are no longer working with the city.

"Some of senior leadership who were involved in some of the decision-making, the allocation of roles and responsibilities, are no longer with the city," he said.

Wandzura declined to name the individuals, citing privacy around human resources matters. 

Two high-profile city transportation managers have left in the last two years but their departures were not linked publicly to the LRT contract or delays. Wandzura's predecessor, Bob Boutilier, retired in the summer of 2013. Charlie Stolte, the manager of Edmonton Transit, left his job in June. 

Wandzura noted much of what happened with the contract occurred prior to his time with the city. He said he learned about project delays six weeks after he started in September 2013. 

Wandzura said council is now regularly updated on capital projects. He said the management of projects is much stronger now. 

He said council will start receiving more enhanced capital project reports this fall. 



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