Halifax City hall through the memorial arch
Audit and Finance Standing Committee

Halifax Transit needs better project planning says AG

Spring Garden will get a facelift this summer
 | April 29, 2021

Audit and Finance Standing Committee, April 29, 2021

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

Spring Garden’s streetscaping project is going ahead. The committee met today (feat. Councillor Mason) and the first order of business was Mason explaining why the Spring Garden construction should happen this year. Mainly, COVID keeping people at home will have less of an impact on the local businesses. So that will be happening this year. 

The Auditor General gave two reports to the committee. The first report was on her audit of Halifax Transit’s technology project management. Her office found there was no inherent benefit to the Public Private Partnership model (P3) and it didn’t necessarily save any money. She did say that it could be beneficial if Transit requires specific skills that they don’t have in house, or just don’t have enough people, but that they didn’t do that assessment.   

The Auditor General was also concerned with Transit’s annual capital budget planning. Her office could find nothing written down to back up their assumptions and/or projections of cost. In talking to Transit her office was able to determine Transit management did the proper assessment and asked the right questions, but just didn’t write any of it down. “To us if it’s not documented it’s not done,” she said to Councillor Cleary in response to his questions on it. 

There are also concerns that without writing anything down things can fall through the cracks in large projects. And if management leaves their current roles, there’s nothing to guide their replacements through these projects. Dave Reage, Executive Director of Halifax Transit, said his department did the right things but didn’t write them down, and assured the committee they would moving forward. The Auditor General was also concerned with the time it took Transit to complete projects.  

The second report was on her office’s audit of the management of accounts payable. Her report highlighted no major concerns, just small gaps where fraud could happen.

The AG made the following recommendations that were all accepted for transit:  

  1. Halifax Transit should develop Transit Technology project forecasts that support annual capital project budget requests and ensure overall Transit Technology program budget estimates have adequate supporting documentation.   
  2. HRM should establish processes to track individual project capital accounts in its financial system for large, distinct projects
  3. Halifax Transit should establish reasonable timelines for all outstanding Transit Technology project milestones.
  4. HRM should establish a cost-benefit analysis process that considers relevant costs and qualitative factors when deciding between internal and external project management resources for capital projects

And the following recommendations that were all accepted for accounts payable:

  1. Finance, Asset Management, and Information, Communication and Technology should determine if using the one-time vendor account is worthwhile, considering whether the benefits outweigh the risks. If use of the one-time vendor account continues, management should document when the one-time vendor account can be used and regularly monitor this account.
  2. Finance, Asset Management, and Information, Communication and Technology should perform an analysis to identify duplicate payments issued and address outstanding duplicate payments.
  3. Finance, Asset Management, and Information, Communication and Technology should monitor for duplicate invoices and payments and take appropriate corrective action
  4. Finance, Asset Management, and Information, Communication and Technology should develop accounts payable performance measures and targets and regularly monitor and report results

Who said what (paraphrased): 

N/A – Covering the meeting with a toddler running rampant. Have to get snacks sometimes.

Present:

Councillor Paul Russell, Chair (District 15)

Councillor Cathy Deagle-Gammon, Vice Chair (District 1)

Councillor David Hendsbee (District 2)

Councillor Trish Purdy (District 4)

Councillor Shawn Cleary (District 9)

Councillor Kathryn Morse (District 10)

Mayor Mike Savage

Absent: 

N/A

Interviews:

N/A – COVID

Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:

Previous meeting

Current agenda


A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.

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