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Not much right with Hamilton Roads Department

Not much right with Hamilton Roads Department

Hamilton paving contractors and the City staff who manage paving contracts may be in for a rude awakening. A comprehensive report with the prosaic title “Roads Value for Money Audit” has laid bare a litany of shoddy practices that have apparently been going on for some time at Hamilton Public Works, at least up to 2018.

Looking at the city’s $4 Billion roads system Auditor Charles Brown identified numerous issues that are costing the city money, leading to poor workmanship and failing to provide a sustainable plan to keep the city streets and roads in a proper state of repair. The report says the city is only spending about 1 percent of the replacement cost of its pavements each year which is lower than some municipalities. So it is all the more urgent to “institute more efficient processes and innovative strategies that focus on quality, proactive preservation and extending the life of pavements.”

Some of the highlights of the report:

Serious concerns about the procurement process. The report commented, “a number of red flags were noted that signal risks related to market domination (Contractor favouritism), bid suppression, cover bidding and low-bid/low-quality events, and which call for the need for vigilance by management in the tendering and monitoring of contracts. The auditor also found several examples where large procurements were split into smaller projects so the project could be sole sourced within the $150,000 discretionary spending limit of staff “One large procurement was divided into four separate procurements of $149,900 in order to come under the $150,000 roster limit and avoid lengthier procurement alternatives.”

Lack of a process to identify and track infrastructure gaps. Some of the processes in place are not reliable, there is no plan for long term sustainability and too much emphasis on resurfacing with little emphasis on proactive preservation.    

Staff are doing a poor job of managing contractor performance. They have accepted “rejectable and borderline quality” in projects. Financial penalties were seldom used and “fines have been relatively insignificant and do not act as a deterrent against low quality.”

Auditor Brown told councillors a possible solution is to implement a contractor rating system,

City Roads receive literally thousands of cuts each year from telephone, cable and gas contractors. The city charges the contractor “degradation fees” to compensate for the long term damage caused but the auditor said there was no system in place to determine if the fees actually covered the cost of the damage.

Pavement designs in Hamilton historically relied on simplified, “off the shelf” design methods not reflective of all parameters of the industry standards. The audit recommended that “that roads management should continue to move away from “boilerplate” design to embrace standards in a systematic way, and develop a design guide, protocols, and training to bring more sophistication to this important function.”

Preventive maintenance, was not being done. Wrote the auditors. “we saw very little evidence of preventive maintenance being applied in any systematic way on urban roads. Rather, preventive treatments are applied only sporadically in the form of crack sealing and surface treatments. This is symptomatic of a reactive system of asset management.”

Councillor Chad Collins expressed concern on this point:

Contractors getting paid without submitting an invoice. The auditor “found that rather than rely on Contractors to submit invoices for payment, City staff were themselves generating progress payment certificates (PPCs) and using that information as the basis for making payments to contractors – without an invoice – in violation of the Construction Act.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. Instances were found where budgeted funds from completed projects with unspent/surplus balances were used to pay for unrelated contracts where there was no budget remaining.

Councillor John-Paul Danko expressed concern to hear this was going on


The Bay Observer uncovered similar instances of cost savings on one project being transferred to another project that had gone over budget in the early days of the Hamilton Waterfront Trust. In one instance costs were transferred to a project to increase the amount of money that would be received under a cost sharing agreement with senior governments.

The audit painted a disturbing portrait of a department that already undergone its share of scandal and controversy, dating back to the discovery of time theft and missing asphalt by the road crews, to the ongoing issue to the Red Hill Parkway inquiry. Todays roads audit should serve as a warning to other departments, both within Public Works, where the largest expenditures tend to take, place but across all city departments that a higher level of scrutiny is in place at Hamilton City Hall.

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  • Basic accounting, no invoice, no payment. Now the city has no paper backup to justify expense, tax audit could see that expense thrown out.

    So who are all these incompenant people that the city hires?

    Reminds me of my experience at a temp job, up at DARTS. I was tasked with changing spreadsheets from lotus to excel, related to payroll. Whomever initially set up the spreadsheets had very limited accounting expertise. I created a 15 page workbook, which was very detailed to include not only current but year to date totals. Divided departments in order to give financial info as some where unionized others were not. It was a work of art.

    My direct supervisor was not accounting trained, when I showed her my work, this person screamed at me. My level of expertise was beyond hers and in the end I was terminated the temp agency refused to give me more assignments and also refused to issue ROE, so I could apply for EI. It took months to achieve EI and I feel when I had to apply for OW, I was blamed not the employer or the temp agency. So called social workers.. Even the MPP was clueless, that person had their goon kick me out the office. This is what I mean when people get elected yet are absolutely incompetant.

    I can envision that a lot of this type of bullying behavior goes on with the corridors of city hall all the time.

    Councillors are not qualified or have financial training thus have no idea what they are looking at. Is it any wonder we have the mess we have??

  • I’m assuming this was a financial audit, which the auditor has to sign off stating all accounting principles and standards are followed.

    If no invoice and payment is issued, that is a breach of standards.

    I did a short temp assignment at the City Centre were bids and such came in. I was only reception however the atmosphere was not a good one. Lots of egos, in my opinion. There was a cash drawer and I told person you cannot go into the drawer, basically I was told you are just a temp, dont tell me what I can or cannot do. Apparently cash was short, I lost assignment.

    Once again lots of bullying by staff, egos abounding

    Council should be asking hard questions like who authorized you to break apart a bidding process into smaller parts against all known principles and standards?

    I mean how can the city use Gestapo like tactics against the homeless in tents yet fails to police itself??

    Very toxic and unhealthy environment.

  • How many Public Work flops have to happen before the GM of PW (Dan McKinnon) faces some consequences?

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