Thoughts and Opinions On Today's Important Issues

Monday, February 11, 2008

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid

But do dead men pump gas at City of Windsor fleet facilities?

Just keep on reading to see the Jay Leno "headlines" moment in all of this. It is truly a classic line that will make you laugh out loud when you read it. Please ensure that you do not choke with laughter on your coffee and that you do not disturb your colleagues at work.

I just cannot believe it. This is the WUC fiasco all over again. There are so many similarities in this matter with what happened before that I almost think that people at City Hall are having fun with us.

At least, City Hall has learned from their past mistakes. Now the new, rewritten version of what should have been said first is coming out so much more quickly. Moreover, have you noticed that the Mayor is not front and centre this time around but that all the underlings are out there trying to take the heat away from him. Do you think were going to have a special whiteboard presentation by the Mayor at Council tonight to explain why the media were wrong in what they said. He can't scold them too much mind you because of all of those W's strapped to their bodies.

Just like with the Windsor Utilities Commission affair, first, you have to blame all of the problems on the past Administration, especially when the head person who was involved before isn't in Windsor now to defend himself. It would have been so messy if he was here to challenge what is said.

A big issue with with WUC, if you remember, was water that seemingly had not been billed out. the Mayor and his State of the City speech in 2007 said:
  • "With the new system in place, we discovered that there were one thousand water meters that were hooked up to water consuming customers, but the Windsor Utilities Commission didn’t know, and wasn’t charging them."

That became a huge symbolic issue with the 86% increase in water rates until we are told that there really was no issue and there really weren't a thousand customers who hadn't paid.

Was fleet gas used but not charged properly? In the Star story, it was claimed that "Dead people [were] pumping gas" presumably because "The audit even found that records of people using the city gas pumps "who are known to be deceased and others who are no longer with the corporation." That was supported by the audit conclusion that "We identified significant control conditions that, in our opinion, expose the (city) to the risk of fraud, waste, abuse, incomplete and inaccurate records."

Never fear though...just like at WUC, the truth supposedly came out subsequently. I think.

The Treasurer "called the actual amount of funds "wasted" on vehicle repair costs, fuel and mismanagement "miniscule" while

  • "Mike Palanacki, executive director of operations, maintained Wednesday there remains no evidence of fraud involving the city's fuel pumps.

    He said the department had more documentation that was never considered regarding the city's fuel than was indicated in the audit report."

So now the Treasurer says there was a "miniscule" amount of money lost while Mr. Palanacki doesn't know if any amount was lost or not just that there was no evidence of it. He also thinks so little of the Audit Department that he didn't give them the documentation to prove that everything was fine.

To further compound the situation, the City's Audit Department chimed in with a press release "to clarify a number of statements." They had to clarify what they wrote because no one clarified before they issued their report what they said even though they had the opportunity to clarify what was wrong. Does that clarify everything?

I know it was meant to clarify the situation but here is exactly what was written in the press release. Honest, I did not make this up. I am not that good a comedy writer:

  • "We did not find evidence or records to show that people were accessing the city gas pumps who are known to be deceased."

This is a Jay Leno memo and I should send it to his show to prove that Stephen Colbert may have been right about what he said about Windsor.

DUHHH, people who are known to be deceased don't pump gas. THEY ARE DEAD! We don't need a clarifying memo to say that.

I think I know what they meant to say but they didn't say it here. They did say that

  • "We did not identify any occurrences of fraud or misappropriation of assets."

Of course not. They wouldn't find that kind of a situation anyway because they were not doing a forensic audit or one designed to uncover fraud.

At the Audit Committee meeting on February 5, 2008, the auditors said:

  • "the department has been able to reconcile and account for the identified fuel variances."

Wow, that happened with WUC too. A blown up problem was not a problem at all! Confused, I sure am. I wonder how good the City audit was now.

To answer the charge that it took the Audit department two years to do an audit of a City Department for a three-year period, the Audit Department press release blamed it on "Staffing issues." So much for the Mayor's promise in 2003 that

  • "We need a starting point, a place to know where we are so that we can judge how well we do when we look at results...

    We will conduct in-depth audits of all of our departments to assess where we stand, and to identify inefficiencies and implement sound management principles across the corporation."

Whew, just like with the WUC time period, it only took the Mayor about four years to get to the starting line for the Fleet Group from the time he took office. Is that the kind of action that any business would tolerate? You know the answer as well as I do. It is a disgrace. I wonder when the audit of all of the other departments are going to come out as promised, before Eddie's term as Mayor ends do you think?

Now all that needs to be done is for the Mayor's flunkies to come out and tell us why the other hundred plus pages of the audit are not correct. They have to figure out if the audit is not correct why we are using these auditors in the first place.

I am thrilled to see that "Currently, the Fleet Operation is operating under an "unwritten" mandate defined by the Executive Director of Public Works."

They are doing their part to cut expenses to the bone. Why waste paper to let people know what their mandate is considering that the Audit Report said that "Management did not provide evidence of defined, documented and communicated organizational objectives, mandates or departmental goals."

I am relieved to know that the auditors clarified that

  • "The findings within the report do not imply that the operation is losing money...There is no net loss to the City as the users are internal."

I have a teeny-weeny problem with that clarification however because it seems that either the Department or the auditors can't do the math very well. As I wrote before:

  • "There is a major difference of opinion in this letter whereby the Department claims that instead of a deficit of almost $6 million, they in fact have a surplus of $91,298 over the three-year period. That is such a dramatic difference that this in itself should result in the hiring of a forensic accountant to find that what is going on... It may well be that we need a new audit department rather than changes in Public Works."

I don't know what's right or wrong. Perhaps it is time for another Ministry whitewash audit to not get at the truth. Then it would be a perfect WUC clone!