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Muni admits mistake in consultant costs

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



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The final bill, which it seems nobody at the RMOW was aware of until repeated requests to clarify the information, turned out to be well over budget at $126,868.

Kevin Rea, who submitted the FOI request that helped uncover the mistake and ultimately the true cost, said he did so because he was concerned about the budget.

"I had attended the council meeting where the review was presented initially and had heard the response from mayor and council that the cost of the review was not being divulged and that good value for the money spent had been obtained," said Rea, in mid December with the FOI report in hand whose totals did not match the official tally at the RMOW.

"That raised a flag in my mind that potentially it had been an expensive consultation."

Not content at the initial FOI information, Rea continued to press for copies of the consultants' invoices.

Those invoices show a breakdown not only of the professional fees for the review, but also the expenses including at least 18 trips from Kelowna to Whistler over the year at a cost of $715 per trip. Several hotel rooms are also part of the bills.

The invoices also revealed that the numbers on paper were not jiving with the official numbers released publicly.

Pique then asked the RMOW to explain the discrepancy. Two days later Comeau admitted there had been a mistake.

"We made a mistake," she said simply.

"The figure that was originally reported was an error.

"It certainly wasn't intentional."

When asked if this calls into question other financial information released by the RMOW, Comeau said that the details of the costs are public information and would be included in the annual Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) report, which lists employee salaries as well as an alphabetical tally of suppliers and what they're paid.

The 2011 SOFI report will not be available until the end of June.

The 2010 report shows Neilson-Welch Consulting billed the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) $47,502. In 2009 the company billed $53,317. And in 2008 it was $43,308.

The service review was met with high praise from the previous council when CAO Mike Furey presented the findings in mid-October.

Since then, as the true cost of the review has come to light and the details of the cuts become more apparent, it is meeting more criticism than praise.

"I'm not terribly impressed with it, quite frankly," said Wilhelm-Morden of the review, highlighting the fact that of the $1.1 million "found" in savings, about a quarter of a million dollars of that is from increased fees.

"I don't know how you call increased fees 'savings'," she said.

"I don't understand that language."