The Auditor General assists City Council in holding itself and staff accountable to taxpayers of the City of Toronto. This includes reviews of City services and how public funds are used. At this council there were two reports on Snow Clearance including damages caused by snow clearance as well as the construction of modular supportive housing.
This past winter the city launched an entirely new winter maintenance program with a new way to manage contracts so that every ward had one main contractor who was responsible for sidewalks, roads and bike lanes as opposed to different contracts for each service which is how it had been done previously. While good in concept, there were some gaps in execution as many of you may have experienced this past winter. One of the gaps revealed was that the vetting process for procurement did not include ensuring all contractors had the necessary fleet to fulfill their contract. Needless to say, there were many unhappy constituents and councillors. Councillors asked whether or not contractors were penalized as it was a “performance-based contract.” Indeed, the city did penalize some contractors, however there was a grace period provided. In our area, we had an unfortunate delay in sod replacement which we found out was in part due to a sod shortage that happened. Transportation Services has committed to improve the system and service level. You can click on both reports to see the recommendations made by our auditor. I am grateful our city has an Auditor General who helps us increase accountability and service.
We are in a housing crisis, which means the city has tried to move quickly to create much needed supportive housing. However, based on these reports from the Auditor General, the speed has resulted in some gaps. You can read 19 recommendations made by our Auditor General by clicking above. Major gaps included:
Final project costs exceeded adjusted budget:
• Phase One: $3M or 16%
• Phase Two: $30M or 91% and expected to increase further
The audit found the budget did not include site-specific costs that would have been identified through planning and due diligence procedures. This means the city does not have clarity whether or not Modular Housing actually delivers housing for the affordable cost it was supposed to achieve. Further, going too fast resulted in compromises in due diligence and project planning.
We have all heard the adage “Haste makes waste.” I believe that diligence in the area of consultation for 175 Cummer was compromised because the city was in a rush. This has resulted in a 92% overage which is only going to go up until the units are finally implemented due to the cost of shipping and storage. It has been said, “Change happens at the speed of trust,” and trying to go too fast in our community, skipping meaningful engagement with the multilingual low-income seniors led to a breakdown in trust and the resulting appeal and delay.
In my speech I suggested the city look at engaging operators earlier in the process so that consultations would be with people who will actually deliver and can shape/impact the outcome as opposed to contracted companies that do consultations that feel far from genuine - especially since they do not have a stake in the outcome. While we await the Nov. 1 OLT hearing, there is little I can personally change about the trajectory of 175 Cummer. However, I want to make sure we learn from our mistakes moving forward for better implementations. This is why I made the following 2 amendments:
I made amendments to ensure a timely report back as well as a report on all previous implementations to ensure we are learning from our mistakes. My amendments are the underlined text below:
19. City Council request the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat to conduct and document on a timely basis, a more formalized lesson learned review after each past and future modular housing project is completed, to be completed within one year of the modular housing project completion and by the end of the second quarter of 2025 for all previous modular housing projects, which should include:
a. Inputs from all participating divisions of the project team;
b. A review of contract design, procurement of the contractor, cost and budget management, contractor performance, and operations; and
c. A consideration of lessons learned from past projects.
I made an amendment to ensure a timely report back on the implementation of audit committee recommendations.
City Council direct the Executive Director, Housing Secretariat, to report back to the Audit Committee no later than the fourth quarter of 2024 on the status of implementation of the Audit Committee Recommendations 1 to 19.
I am grateful we have an Auditor General to ensure due diligence across our city. You can find out more about the work of this department here: www.torontoauditor.ca