Muni admits mistake in consultant costs 

Service review over budget and $40,000 more than officially stated

click to enlarge discrepency The true cost of a municipal service review  was almost 50 per cent higher than originally reported.
  • discrepency The true cost of a municipal service review was almost 50 per cent higher than originally reported.

Public pressure to uncover the true costs for the consultant who did the municipal service review has revealed the price tag for the project is much higher than initially reported by municipal hall.

Late Friday afternoon the municipality confirmed the consultants' fees were $126,868, up almost $40,000 from the figure municipal officials insisted was correct in early December.

At that time, the municipality requested Pique run a clarification to its initial story, reiterating that the review cost $88,520 and was not in fact over budget.

When pressed on the numbers in the ensuing weeks, and in the face of a telling Freedom of Information (FOI) document obtained by a member of the public, the municipality found a $40,000 error and admitted its mistake this week.

"It appears that a mistake was made as to the identification of the costs of that service review and on behalf of the municipal hall I apologize for the fact that the mistake was made," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, speaking this week after a morning ski on Whistler Mountain.

"I don't know how it was made nor do I know how it was discovered. I've asked those questions."

And she intends to find out the answers.

It's a sticky situation she has inherited from the previous council, who commissioned the review and presented its findings at one of its last meetings before the November election.

The service review morphed out of what was supposed to be a $30,000 organizational assessment at the municipality, begun in 2010.

At that time, the municipality put out a Request For Proposals to four companies, looking for a consultant to do the work.

"It didn't go out as a tender. No," said municipal communications manager Michele Comeau, adding that it's common practice to go out and seek bids from qualified consultants.

Kelowna's Neilson-Welch Consulting Inc., consultants to government, was given the contract.

The original organizational assessment cost $21,715, but council of the day decided a more in-depth study of the hall was needed in its quest to find savings and balance the books. It approved a $60,000 budget at a closed doors meeting for Neilson-Welch to do a service review, bringing the total budget to $90,000.

Over 2011 the service review examined the three biggest departments at municipal hall, Community Life, Environmental Services and Parks Operations.

It found $1.1 million by cutting budgets to youth programming, reducing service levels, eliminating staff positions and increasing fees.

When asked in early December if he thought it was good value for money, then Mayor Ken Melamed, who believed the review cost $88,000, said:

"I do. Obviously the results speak for themselves. There's over $1.1 million in ongoing annual reductions to the operating budget."

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