Ottawa

New city trucks a bad fit for plowing duty, auditor finds

The City of Ottawa had to buy six new trucks after the ones it initially purchased were unable to handle the weight of the plows they were meant to push, the city's auditor has found.

Ill-fated vehicle purchase among 190 tips to fraud and waste hotline

Ken Hughes, the City of Ottawa's auditor general, released a report Thursday on his investigations into tips made to the city's fraud and waste hotline in 2018. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

The City of Ottawa had to buy six new trucks after the ones it initially purchased were unable to handle the weight of the plows they were meant to push, the city's auditor has found.

It was just one of several examples of wasteful municipal spending Ken Hughes described Thursday in his report on the 190 anonymous tips submitted to the municipal fraud and waste hotline in 2018.

The trucks in question were purchased for OC Transpo to clear snow and spread salt at the transit agency's yards, but the city soon learned the attachments didn't fit.

"The vehicles' front axles were overloaded and the vehicles couldn't perform the work that they were purchased for," Hughes said.

The city reassigned those trucks and bought new ones. Removing the plows and installing them on new trucks cost the city $82,000, Hughes said. 

Among the other examples of fraud or waste that Hughes and his team discovered:

  • Two employees were regularly smoking cannabis in a city vehicle during work hours. They were fired. While their behaviour was discovered before cannabis was legalized last October, Hughes said the employees would still have lost their jobs today.
  • An employee stole $1,100 in cash. That person has resigned and has agreed to a settlement to reimburse the city.
  • The city continued to pay $86,000 to a pensioner before it was advised that the former employee had died. Repayments have begun.
  • A manager who violated city policies by hiring family members received a warning letter. All supervisors will get refresher training on recruiting and hiring standards.

Build new family shelter, auditor urges

The auditor released a separate report Thursday on his investigation into how the city uses motels as emergency shelters.

Hughes found the number of families staying in motels had grown from 92 in 2016, to 181 in 2017, to 219 last year. There are currently 282 families sheltered in hotels and motels across the city.

To house those families, the city spent $9.3 million in 2018, of which 41 per cent went to a single motel. The families spent an average of four months in a single-room unit with no kitchen, at an average cost to the city of $3,000 per month.

The city has one shelter for homeless families on Carling Avenue, but recently closed another shelter on Forward Avenue.

In his report, the auditor urged the city to look at building a new shelter to house homeless families, something the city plans to do by next year.

The audit team also looked at how $1,360 disappeared from a safe at Meridian Theatre at Centrepointe in early November 2018. 

There was no security camera watching over the safe, so police and corporate security were unable to identify the thief. The safe has since been moved to an area of the theatre that's under video surveillance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Porter

Reporter

Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past two decades, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

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