The process for developing a LVEC in Kingston, as outlined by Mr. Bert Meunier, Chief Administrative Officer, on 13 July 2004 (report No. 04-284) is flawed.
The expenditure of public funds on a discretionary project requires a clear process such as the ones that the Federal and Provincial Governments use.
For the sake of comparison and discussion, we might refer to the Federal Government process and highlight the problematic areas with the process for the LVEC.
The Department of National Defence adheres to the Treasury Board guidelines for project approvals. This process can be seen in detail on the DND web site listed below.
Treasury Board Guidelines (This link will open in a new window, which may be closed to reteurn to this page)
In summary, there are three phases:
Each stage is completed with a Synopsis Sheet that outlines recommendations. It also puts a question to the elected officials as to whether to proceed to the next phase. Each phase is used to build more detail to the structure of the proposal. At each milestone between phases, a decision is required to fund the next phase and the options may narrow.
The LVEC Project is currently just starting the Definition Phase. The mayor has expedited this project into the Definition Phase without completing the Identification Phase thoroughly.
Let’s discuss them in detail, so that we really understand what is being omitted or overlooked.
In the Identification Phase, several key things should be done.
In the Definition Phase, the project options are reviewed in detail and the technical details are investigated.
Approval from the Identification Phase usually delivers enough money to establish a Project Management Team (to navigate through the process of implementation, not manage the LVEC once its built). Funds are also given for feasibility, technical and support studies. The purpose is to gather more details to validate (or modify) the requirements and flush out the details of the option analysis.
At the end of the Definition Phase, a synopsis sheet is sent again to the elected officials. This document should give the refined and detailed outline of the options with a recommendation to move ahead on one option. You can see with the LVEC that we have already reached this stage without a valid options analysis or risk assessment.
It is unprecedented to rule out all options before the end of the Definition Phase. Indeed, it could be highly negligent to do so.
In the Implementation Phase, the detailed Statement of Requirements and a detailed Statement of Work is developed. These are key documents for raising the contract for construction. And this is the key phase where there is the most money to be made. Rushing to this point usually guarantees failure at this stage.
As correctly outlined by Mr Meunier, this phase can be viewed as two separate contracts or one large contract. Construction can be awarded by the city and on completion, handed over to the partner. Or the partner can be decided on before the construction starts and then the partner also get the construction contract. It appears that Mr. Meunier has already proposed this risky option and we are unlikely to be able to back track to take the more conservative route.
A Design/Build process could be used here (it is risky and not generally used for discretionary spending projects). The risk is only compounded by entering into the partnership before the design is done. These risk strategies should have been clearly identified much earlier in the risk assessment. The failure to have done a risk assessment in the Identification Phase may be critical here.
The LVEC in Kingston
The City of Kingston does not have the large number of staff and the bureaucracy of the Federal Government. It might not be reasonable to expect them to follow this process rigorously. However, I think we should understand where they are short-cutting. The two biggest deficiencies at this stage are a lack of an option analysis and a lack of a risk assessment.
So, if you are having uneasy feelings about the LVEC proposal, if you feel it is all moving too fast and too boldly in all the wrong directions...don’t worry, you are not crazy! This process is being condensed, expedited and abbreviated for no apparent reason. It ignores the fundamental issue of public servants and elected offices acting responsibly and minimizing risk to the tax payer.
Last updated 30.9.2004