Over $600,000 Paid to consultants in 2012

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Oct. 17, 2013

 With 10.2 per cent tax increase, this wasn’t the best year to be a taxpayer in Squamish.

But it’s a different story if you were a consultant or a lawyer working for the district.

District of Squamish made out cheques over $600,000 to an array of consultants in 2012, the Statement of Financial Information (SOFI) reveals.

Add another $300,000 for payments made to lawyers and you are looking at a bill inching closer to the $1 million mark.

An analysis of district payouts for 2012 reveals the district paid $669,414 to consultants, seeking their advice and expertise on management, policy and engineering issues.

It’s important to note that this figure ($669,414) is gleaned from SOFI documents which provide the breakdown for only payments made over $25,000.

E. Lees & Associates Consulting Ltd from Vancouver walked away with $76,050 of taxpayers’ money for helping the district draft its Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

Taxpayers wrote a cheque worth $37, 419 to Cityspaces Consulting to prepare the Upper Mamquam Blind Channel land use study.

Gary Moser, a labour relations consultant, was paid $37,116 for his services, while Avantage Consulting walked away with   $25,183 of taxpayers’ money for conducting a core service review for the district.

Another consultant, Vanessa Carrington of Wit + Sense Consulting was paid $32, 460 for her services. She helped the district with its building development application tools.

A redesign of the district website cost the taxpayers $67,200. The contract was awarded to Pound & Grain, a digital design studio based in Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Murdy & McAllister, a Vancouver-based law firm was paid $173,267 for its legal services, with another $71,860 went to Lidstone & Company Law Corporation.

With no credible information available, it’s only left to conjecture on what the SODC has spent on consultants all these years.

This much is known: More than 120 consultants were engaged by SODC for the Oceanfront.

Last April, in response to a FOI request by the Squamish Reporter, SODC demanded $4514.39 to provide answers for questions related to pay-outs for its 120 consultants.

Political commentator Helmut Manzl said the upsurge in consultant hiring implies that district staff are not competent enough to do their own research.

“It’s too easy to throw tax dollars at consultant reports,” he said.

“Unfortunately, too many reports start as flashes in the pan and end up collecting dust on shelves at muni hall.”

Coun. Patricia Heintzman said merely looking at the cost of consultants can’t provide a true understanding of the issue.

“For specific expertise we usually need to go beyond our staff, finding the balance is key,” she said.

She said the council evaluates how much it spends on consultants every year.

E. lees & Associates       $76,050

Gary Moser consulting   $37,116

Wit + Sense Consulting $32,460

Cityspaces Consulting    $37, 419

CPMJ Consulting           $27, 516

 

Comments

  1. Brad Hodge says:

    Obviously looking at cost alone does not provide a true accounting of the benefits. However I echo Moe Freitag’s call for better auditing so that there is as little doubt left as possible.

    I’d be interested in knowing, for example what exactly we got from Mr. Moser, who I believe is a former Deputy Minister from back in the NDP days. And if local firms were invited to quote on the website redesign — seems particularly odd given our move to rec-tec that we didn’t have confidence in one or more of our various local outfits to do that job.

  2. Marnie Lett says:

    I quickly looked up the location of all of the consulting firms, indeed they are all outside of Squamish. Its quite possible we don’t have the local expertise or that locals did attempt to obtain the contracts, I am not in a position to say. I just want to echo the sentiment that I hope they were given the chance and that our District instinctively seeks out a Made in Squamish solution for obvious reasons, but particularly for the unquantifiable factor that a local firm might just care more and have more connection or the ability to connect with stakeholders.

  3. larry mclennan says:

    Let’s see- apparently the SODC (& council & district staff) presumably didn’t have the skills/knowledge to address a number of issues pertaining to land development at the oceanfront lands . This shortfall in ability apparently necessitated going to sundry consultants. Looking at the descriptions of some of the consultants’ duties ; it is noted that the amounts paid are for “district”, not SODC purposes (district parks & recreational master plan , redesign of the district website, district bulding & application tools, etc.) it is not clear what amount of legal services were for district (not SODC exclusively) purposes.If the narrative in the article is correct . it implies that council & the district have been using the SODC loan and line of credit for improper purposes ie spending money intended for exclusive use by the corporation for purposes other than that. Is the district hiding the true debt spending of the district bu off-loading costs to the SODC? I, for one, would like a clear answer to this question.

  4. LArry McLennan says:

    Continuing on-how many of these expenditures should be capitalized in the first place ? It appears that by burying these expenditures in the balance sheet capital account of SODC , they were basically being hidden from public scrutiny which might have been aroused had the costs been declared in income statements.(Labour Relations? Upper Mamquam Blind Channel ?Master plan for parks & Recreation? etc why are these costs capitalized in the SODC?)

  5. Dave says:

    Marnie.
    Points taken but the only thing we have to be careful of is the old problem of conflict of interest. Sometimes this can be very veiled or indirect…..to the extent of friends of friends of friends etc. …or is this too paranoid? Anyway we have had problems of this nature in the past and an “arms length” approach can sometime be elusive even though desirable!
    Wasn’t it Mayor Sutherland who said that the DODC was going to be at “arms length” too? Would it not be better to offset this by favouring external agents?