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The City PFR has trouble accounting for some large expenditure

2005 10-Oct-2011 [688]

• Access to Information responses are delayed, contradictory, incomplete, and poorly organized.

Part of City Spending

posted April 27, 2005

The chart of consultants' fees contains information from the most recent response from the city (NOT bolded), merged with information from their previous response, and information collected by CELOS (bolded).

city consultant chart 2005

Here is an edited version of a letter from CELOS to the province's information and privacy mediator, about Parks and Rec consultant contracts:

Here is the chart of all the material we found so far, pertaining to consultant contracts involving the City of Toronto Parks and Recreation Division.

The list is very long, but incomplete in a number of ways.

The most recent response from the City (dated April 1 2005, to access request 04-2948) was the longest. In our chart, it's the unbolded text. The most obvious deficiency throughout that April 1 list is that "the purpose of the contract" column is mostly lacking any details at all.

Our group's previous request on the same subject (04-1580, submitted June 18 2004) resulted in a much shorter list, dated Sept. 18, 2004, all bolded on the chart. There is an overlap between the two City responses, but much that doesn't match. 17 contracts were mentioned in both responses, but often the "actual expenditure" amounts don't match. (The "purpose of the contract" column -- they call it "short text" -- is mostly adequate in the 04-1580 response, showing that the capacity is there.) But 20 contracts in the City's response 04-1580 don't show up at all in 04-2948. In addition, information about 19 contracts in our chart came via access-to-information requests on other subjects, but were not included in either of the City's consultants lists. These additional contracts are also bolded in our chart.

We have highlighted most of the confusing or missing bits throughout.

Our research assistant also found an additional 8 contracts in the minutes of the Economic Development, Culture, and Tourism Committee reports, which were not listed in any of the City's access to information responses. They are also bolded in our chart. Some of these contracts represent very large amounts -- e.g. $804,000 and $675,000. Then we found another contract pertaining to Parks and Rec in the Finance Committee minutes for $10.3 million. We don't understand how they could just be left off the City's access to information response.

It's also quite difficult to understand the rationale behind the organization of the City's large 04-2948 contract list -- it seems to be organized neither by date, nor by contract number, nor by type of activity, nor by geography.

This undermines any confidence we might have in the City lists' attempt at completeness.

In addition, the City's name change of the "cost element" from consultants to contracted services after 2002 seems to be another reason why the intent of our question has been avoided by the City. Presumably this is why there are far fewer listings after that year.

Our group's desire to find out how much of the Parks and Recreation budget is spent on consultant-fees/ contracted-services, and for what projects, is grounded in our puzzlement about why -- with an annual budget of $210 million -- there is an apparent shortage of funds for running the City's parks and community centres. This puzzlement is shared by many of our neighbours, and even by front-line City workers whom we encounter in our neighborhood parks. Our question is an important one, and it deserves a more complete and timely answer than we've had so far. Public discussion needs open books.

In the spirit of contributing to a better organization of the data, we have entered all the consultant-contracts/ contracted-services information that we received from the City or elsewhere into our chart. Perhaps it would make sense for this chart to become the stepping-stone for a search by the City that would result in the filling in of the gaps they have left, and the correction of inconsistencies?