Manitoba

Winnipeg council votes to increase reporting threshold to $20M for city projects

City construction projects will have to cost $20 million before they're considered major capital projects, Winnipeg's council decided Wednesday.

3 Winnipeg city councillors say changes to construction reporting hobbles accountability

Coun. Russ Wyatt voted against a motion to increase the threshold for major capital projects from $10 million to $20 million because he said it would limit council's ability to monitor spending. (CBC)

City construction projects will have to cost $20 million before they're considered major capital projects, Winnipeg's council decided Wednesday.

All but three Winnipeg city councillors voted in favour of increasing the cost threshold for construction projects to be considered major capital projects by the city. The vote raised the amount from $10 million to $20 million for a project to require quarterly reporting to the city's standing policy committee on finance.

Councillors Scott Gillingham, who's a member of the finance committee, Russ Wyatt and Ross Eadie voted against the change. All raised concerns about a lack of transparency and accountability with the new, higher threshold. 

"There is going to be lots of projects that will not be reported," said Wyatt.

Wyatt previously called for the threshold to be reduced to $5 million in order to catch cost overruns earlier in the construction process.

"We're not out of the woods yet when it comes to ensuring projects hold the line," he said, "I think it would have been wise for us to hold back and wait a couple years until we get our house in order [before increasing the threshold]."

The city's auditor recommended increasing the threshold from $10 million to $20 million to reflect inflation in construction and engineering costs. The major capital project threshold had not been increased since 1999.

Mayor defends increase

Mayor Brian Bowman supported the change, in part because he said there already is sufficient reporting on city projects.

"While the information in these quarterly status updates is important, it's informative, it hasn't given council the current information we began delivering to all our citizens this past September with the new monthly capital expenditure reporting," Bowman said.

The new reporting method makes public all project spending on a monthly basis, said the mayor.

"Every dollar is reported for scrutiny by members of this council, by members of the media and by members of the public. And that's a good thing," said Bowman.

Wyatt does not believe simply making the numbers available will ensure accountability. He promised to move that every project require full reporting to the finance committee for the next three years.

He said he has no doubts city civil servants will be able to handle the increased workload.

"The last time I checked the bureaucracy was over 9,000. We have the ability to ensure that there is transparency and accountability," said Wyatt. 

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