Curley: Housing fiasco culprits can’t be disciplined
“They disappeared from the face of the earth”
Tagak Curley, the Nunavut housing minister, said Feb. 22 that it’s not possible to discipline the Nunavut Housing Corp. officials who oversaw the corporation’s $110 million cost overrun fiasco — because they’re all gone.
“Those who should have been fired then are no longer in control; they disappeared from the face of the earth,” Curley said in response to a question from Fred Schell, the MLA for South Baffin.
Schell didn’t appear satisfied with that answer and said in a follow-up question that at least some of the cost overruns occurred after the “new regime,” headed by the corporation’s new president, Alain Barriault, took over.
Barriault succeeded Peter Scott, who served as housing corporation president when the $200 million Nunavut Housing Trust project was launched. That scheme produced about $60 million in cost overruns.
A second project, the Nunavut Affordable Housing Initiative, based on a second $100-million contribution from the federal government, racked up another $50 million in overruns.
“The minister is half right because half of it was under the previous regime, but the other $50 million was under this new regime and it’s still the same people in place,” Schell said.
Curley responded to that by insisting that the current managers at the corporation served for slightly more than a year only, and that they’re now “cleaning up the mess.”
The fiasco didn’t come to light until after the end of 2009, when a new chief financial officer started work at the corporation. By that time, Scott and other senior bosses had left.
A Deloitte and Touche review of the Nunavut Housing Trust cost overrun said they found the housing corporation didn’t track expenses properly and that information was missing from the corporation’s files.
They concluded that a major cause was poorly controlled labour costs, which turned out to be 72 per cent higher than forecast.
The consultants also said the corporation is severely understaffed, with too many employees who don’t have the skills to do their jobs, and that the organization is plagued by problems related to decentralization.
In committee of the whole Feb. 22, Ron Elliot, the MLA for Quttiktuq, asked why the corporation hired certain consultants on sole-source, no-bid contracts to advise on social housing construction.
One of them, Nimacon Consulting Inc. of Morrisburg, Ont., is owned by Bill Gofton, an ex-employee of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut housing corporations.
Elliot noted that Nimacon received $55,000 for “technical services” and asked why Gofton’s company was hired.
Barrriault, who appeared before the committee to answer questions, said Nimacon was hired to make up for “a lack of capacity” at the corporation.
In his answer, Barriault suggested that Gofton, as a consultant, was doing work similar to what he had been doing as a housing corporation employee.
“Nimacon Consulting was contracted by the previous administration to provide services to the Nunavut Housing Corp., basically, due to a lack of capacity, is my understanding. So operations needed to continue, so this person who had that knowledge was contracted,” Barriault told the committee.
Schell asked numerous questions about delays that kept contractors and construction workers stuck in communities being paid for doing nothing, including a crew who waited for many weeks in Kimmirut for an inspector to arrive.
He also asked about a situation in a community that he did not name, where he alleged that a housing corporation employee gave a construction contract to his brother-in-law.
Barriault responded by saying that he isn’t aware of any such situation.
On Feb. 23, Curley confirmed that the housing corporation will transfer eight finance and human resources jobs from Arviat and Iqaluit.
In committee, Barriault told MLAs that it was impossible for workers in Arviat to transfer huge data files, some as large as 200 megabytes, from Arviat to Iqaluit over the Government of Nunavut’s rickety internet system, and that the move will improve communications and information sharing.
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