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Ottawa city council opts for in-house audit over judicial inquiry into LRT procurement

Council also directed staff to look into options to terminate the maintenance contract between the city and Rideau Transit Group
2019-07-26 lrt ottawa o-train light rail MV4
O-Train sign outside of Tunney's Pasture Station, 2019. Mike Vlasveld/ CityNews

The City of Ottawa's own auditor general is expected to investigate the procurement process for its light rail project after several councillors and community organizations called for a judicial inquiry.

A motion calling for a judicial inquiry was replaced at Wednesday's meeting by a new one from Stittsville Ward City Councillor Glen Gower, and after hours of heated debate around the table, council voted 14 to 9 in favour of the city's auditor general investigation.

Supporters of the judicial inquiry say it would be much more thorough than an audit, but Mayor Jim Watson said an audit would be far cheaper.

"From the publicly available info, we can expect a judicial inquiry to cost between 10-to-20-times more than an audit by the autitor general," he explained. "A simple Google search shows that judicial inquiries tend to take on a life of their own [and] initial cost projections are almost always proven to be way off the mark."

The audit is expected to identify whether the procurement model recommended by city staff and approved by council, back in 2012, was keeping with best practices, in order to inform the future stages of LRT procurement. The auditor will be looking at the facts and sequence of events from 2012 to present, regarding approvals, development, costs, timelines and operation of Ottawa’s LRT system. They will also examine whether recommendations were provided council with sufficient oversight and whether or not council received sufficient, independent expert advice on the LRT transit project.

Council also agreed on Wednesday that staff should look into options to terminate the maintenance contract between the city and Rideau Transit Group and look at the possibility of bringing maintenance in house.

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