An apparent lack of project oversight caused the cost overruns on the Gauden Creek diversion project, according to a report released Monday by the municipality’s corporate administration department.
Mayor James Atebe said the rules in place to prevent this were not followed.
“It’s a little disappointing in that this was supposed to be a signature project,” he said.
Coun. Mike Scudder said, “this was a bad news, good news story,” explaining that he blamed senior levels of government for pushing Mission into crisis.
He said staff were forced to jump to take advantage of limited-time funding opportunities before a proper risk assessment of the project could be done.
Scudder was referring to the $4.8 million Cedar Street widening project which was completed $826,000 under budget, that the district then hurriedly redirected into the diversion project before the Oct. 31 grant deadline.
Initially, a project budget of $596,454 was approved, but a series of cost overruns led to verbal change orders that inflated the revised budget to $942,803. These verbal change orders put the project $330,000 over budget without alerting district administration or council.
In delivering the report to council Monday, deputy chief administrative officer Paul Gipps outlined a series of failures in project management, including the time crunch that did not afford proper risk assessment, limited use of staff, and no real accountability owing to a lack of a project manager.
Gipps said in reviewing other projects he was frustrated to learn the Cedar Street widening project has reported similar cost overruns of $8,000 on Nov. 10 to $435,000 a week later.
Coun. Paul Horn hammered the report, saying the same issues were raised eight years ago during discussions about the Leisure Centre cost overruns.
“Far and away this is an unacceptable situation,” said Horn, adding it’s difficult to leave council knowing such a big issue has yet to be addressed.
Gipps took exception with some of Horn’s comments, saying the money isn’t being “tossed out the window” because it’s going into permanent infrastructure. But Horn disagreed, saying council wouldn’t have agreed to spend the money had it known this would happen, particularly given the state of the district’s finances.
Gipps assured council the incident has been taken seriously and administration is now drawing up firm rules about the amount of money a department can spend without administrative or council authorization, as well as a project management framework.
But not everyone was confident in these assurances. During question period, resident Terry Mortimer asked why nobody has been punished.
“If there’s no consequences, then there’s no accountability,” he said.
The Gaudin Creek diversion project is the construction of about 340 metres of new creek channel complete with flood berms.