Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps has proposed to have an audit conducted on the Johnson Street Bridge project.
The Auditor General for Local Government (AGLG) is a provincial office that acts as a third-party investigator for municipal governments. Helps said having the AGLG look into the bridge would help the City identify any problems that haven’t already been found.
“There are many lessons learned [from the bridge]. We’ve completely changed our approach to capital projects as result of the bridge, with the upcoming Crystal Pool and Wellness Centre and the new fire hall,” Helps said. “There may be nothing more, but I think it is good to have a third party look at what went wrong.”
The Johnson Street Bridge project led to significant criticisim between residents and the City of Victoria, after it exceeded its original deadline by three years and its budget by over $40 million.
When asked how the project managed to go so far off the rails, Helps was at a loss.
“I have no idea,” she said, noting that while she was on city council when the project was being approved, there were no policies in place to properly track the project’s progression.
Since then, the City has put forward two policies that all major projects must follow.
The first is a Project Management Policy, designed to be a project guideline with associated, documented procedures for how projects are “planned, executed and delivered.” The second is a Cost Estimate Development Policy, which has developed standard cost estimate strategies and standard costing factors for the City to take into account.
When asked on the timing of the bridge audit announcement, which is just a month before the municipal election, Helps said she was following up on a promise she made to the city watchdog, the Grumpy Taxpayer$, and wanted to call for the audit now that the bridge is done.
“I had committed [to an audit] to the Grumpy Taxpayer$ in February, so the timing is such as it is,” she said. “We all wish it had been finished earlier, but final touches just happened with the completion of the southern walkway a few week ago…There are lessons to be learned, and I want to make sure we’ve been thorough.”