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Red Deer County boosts procurement review budget

$150,000 added to procurement review budget
(Advocate file photo)

The price tag for Red Deer County's review of its purchasing practices has soared.

Last September, council voted to have an independent forensic audit conducted of its purchasing practices along with a governance review. At the time, the cost was not known so $40,000 was pencilled into the budget, with $30,000 set aside for a procurement review.

On Tuesday, council was told administration recommended at least $150,000 be added to the budget to complete the Procurement Forensic Audit.

Mayor Jim Wood admitted he was "grappling" with the cost of the audit but believes the county must finish what it started.

"We need to ensure that we're transparent," he said. "I have to support finishing this project. I think it's important that we validate whatever they find.

"The forensic audit is independent. For us not to give (consultants) the tools do the job wouldn't actually come with the mandate we started with." 

Coun. Philip Massier was the lone vote against the budget boost.

Massier said county began looking into its purchasing process after a local business person raised concerns about how a tender was handled. Council voted to spend $30,000 to determine if there was any validity to the complaint.

"The original intention was one thing in my mind and it's morphed into something else and five times the original cost," said Massier. "And I think that's just outrageous and I won't support that."

Coun. Christine Moore supported the expenditure.

"This is an investment in our future and all those who will have any relationship with the county moving forward," she said."To me, it's an expense but a necessary one …"

Coun. Lonny Kennett said it's important that the county remains transparent.

"We made a promise to the public that we were going to do this. We're going to do it right and follow the process.

"It's not cheap but the expense to our reputation could be even more expensive."

The county’s purchasing and procurement policies came under scrutiny in January when council was considering tenders for underground services for the future site of new EQUS offices, shop and storage yard at Junction 42.

However, after a bid was chosen the father of one of the unsuccessful bidders complained to the county claiming his son's company could have done the work cheaper.

The issue led to council discussions about its oversight role and prompted the ongoing review by administration and the county’s lawyer of the county’s procurement policy. 

Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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