Friday, March 29, 2013

Bit & Pieces: The BC Liberal Machine

Vancouver Courier Editorial Cartoon
                                         Geoff Olson, March 27, 2013, Vancouver Courier

AG, fairness monitor Evergreen Line reports sidestep contractor's troubles

Thu Mar 28, 2013, Business in Vancouver. 

A report by the Auditor General on the Evergreen Line released this morning and the report by the project's fairness monitor, which was completed six months ago but only published yesterday, both ignore the problems of the contractor hired to build the 11-kilometre SkyTrain extension.

The provincial government announced October 4, 2012, that embattled SNC-Lavalin would lead the designing, building and financing of the $1.4 billion project.

Auditor General John Doyle's report examined planning for the project, information provided by the Ministry of Transportation and Partnerships BC about the route and technology and the form of procurement.

“What we were looking at was the planning phase,” newly appointed Acting Auditor General Russ Jones told Business in Vancouver. “Basically, what to build and how best to contract the delivery of that service. We didn't take a look at the actual procurement process.”

“We did not examine how the preferred procurement was applied to choose a contractor to build the line,” said a disclaimer in the report.

Likewise for the report by fairness monitor Jane Shackell, a lawyer with Miller Thomson.

Her September 20, 2012-dated final report, submitted the following day to the Evergreen Line project board, was withheld from publication. It was quietly released on the Partnerships BC website yesterday.

Shackell made no mention of SNC-Lavalin or any other bidder in her three-and-a-half-page report and concluded: “I am satisfied that the project team has implemented and complied with the procurement and decision processes set out in the (request for proposals), in accordance with reasonable standards of fairness.”

“I'm not really reporting on anything other than the process,” Shackell told BIV. “The evaluation committee reports to the project board about who the bidders are and who's successful.”

A November 9, 2011, government news release said seven teams responded to the request for qualifications and three were allowed to apply in the request for proposals process, including SNC-Lavalin, EL Partners and Kiewit/Flatiron.

Montreal-headquartered SNC-Lavalin is under investigation for corruption in Quebec, Europe, Africa and Asia. Former CEO Pierre Duhaime, who quit last November, is facing bribery charges related to the McGill University hospital project. The company's transportation division is located in Vancouver.

At a March 23 Coquitlam news conference to announce station names, Transport Minister Mary Polak said: “We have had very good working relationships with SNC on other projects, haven't had any of those problems here in British Columbia. A very, very large company, very diverse, they have distinct and separate entities within the larger SNC-Lavalin, so we don't have any concerns."

Jones said he has asked the Auditor General of Quebec “to keep us up to speed if anything comes up (regarding SNC-Lavalin) that they think might impact some of the work that's going on out here.”

Shackell declined comment when asked whether SNC-Lavalin’s well-known, international and domestic legal troubles affected the Evergreen Line procurement process.

“I probably shouldn't comment on that because I wouldn't want to add to my report by way of speaking to you,” Shackell said.

Doyle concluded in his report that SkyTrain technology was the best option, but the transport ministry and Partnerships BC’s material for Treasury Board in 2010 “clearly fell short” of the government’s 2002 Capital Asset Management Framework guidelines that are intended to inform government investment decisions.

The agencies did not “clearly and fully explain the different costs, benefits and risks when comparing SkyTrain, light rail and bus improvement options in the material presented to Treasury Board. For the preferred SkyTrain scope, agencies did not explain how Evergreen ridership forecasts assumed both extensive investment in other parts of the transit system and a rapid increase in the cost of using automobiles after 2021. In addition, agencies did not show how the Evergreen Line would impact and be affected by the performance and utilization of other parts of the Metro Vancouver transit system.”

Doyle wrote that the procurement decision was “simplified” because a long-term private-public partnership, such as the SNC-Lavalin's partnership on the Canada Line, “did not make economic sense.” The short-term P3 model for the Evergreen Line includes design, build and finance, but not operations and maintenance.

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