This week Council met in General Committee. The agenda was fairly light however there was one item before Council that I would like to highlight and that was a motion to approve the hiring of Brook Laker & Associates to do an audit of the JOC project. Residents may recall that despite the fact that the JOC build had a Financial Monitoring Task Force in place (Councillor Abel and Mayor Dawe as members) to provide the leadership necessary to keep the project on track, the JOC project had a number of project related and/or budgetary issues that were of sufficient significance as to warrant a voluntary audit. I believe the audit is a good first step, as it will provide a look at the budget and cost figures – analysis of scope reductions and costs to complete the project and confirmation of final project cost vs. budget variance. These are all questions that many of us have been asking so I look forward to getting the answers. The one thing that I will be looking for from the audit is an explanation for how this project was managed, or rather, mismanaged. I am particularly interested in understanding the decision making processes that led to the scope reductions (taking things out of the project, then putting them back in later with a separate funding request to Council). In my opinion, scope reductions were done to artificially lower the budget so that the project would come under or on budget. Coming in “on budget” may look great on paper, but when it’s achieved by removing project components that are actually needed, that are then added in after the project is closed, at extra cost and over the budget, isn’t good project management. Nor it is sound fiscal management. Which leads to my other concern that I hope to see addressed through the audit process, the role of the Financial Monitoring Task Force. Given that this Task Force was put together to ensure full accountability of both project scope and financials, and to keep Council informed. I would like to understand how these basic objectives were not met. Just asking if a project is on time and on budget is not “financial monitoring”. As a result of the decisions or lack of decisions made by the Task Force, Council is now in the situation where there is an added Capital budget line item for the 2018 budget due to additional JOC costs – to the tune of $1.7 million… I am looking forward to the audit report so that we can learn what happened, what didn’t happen, and how we can have better leadership and management of future projects so that the same mistakes are not made again. More to come on this item.. stay tuned..