No apologies from Auditor General

Auditor General Dan Duguay said he would be offering no apologies to Burns Conolly Group Ltd. for the contents of the recently released report on the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal.

Mr. Duguay also said he would not be withdrawing the report.

‘There is no provision or mechanism to withdraw the report, and even if we did have the mechanism, I would not be withdrawing the report, because I feel it is fair and balanced.’

Burns Conolly Group, which acted as the project manager on the Royal Watler Cruise Terminal, was criticised in the Auditor General’s report for not consulting with the Port Authority on project variation requests, among other things.

Burns Conolly, owner of the Burns Conolly Group, reportedly threatened to sue the Auditor General’s office if the report was not withdrawn and a public apology issued.

Mr. Conolly said the report jumps to conclusions and makes assumptions not based on full reality.

Mr. Duguay responded on Saturday by saying he did not believe Mr. Conolly’s statement was fair.

‘I think that we looked at the project comprehensively,’ he said. ‘We looked fully at all the elements of the project we had access to.’

Mr. Conolly stated in a press release last week that they pointed out many inaccuracies of the report to the Auditor General when shown a draft copy.

‘The Auditor General, despite having the information and documents provided, appears to have chosen to disregard the same,’ the press release stated.

Mr. Duguay said his office did take Mr. Conolly’s comments into consideration and that his office made more than 20 changes to the report based on the information provided by the Burns Conolly Group.

‘Some of the changes were only a few words, for instance there were a couple of things Mr. Conolly said were assumptions, so we added words like ‘in the Auditor General’s opinion’ to the report.

‘In addition, some whole paragraphs were added based on the information provided.’

Other information, however, was not provided by the Burns Conolly Group after it was presented with the draft report.

‘(Mr. Conolly) said he was going to send us additional information, but he never did,’ said Mr. Duguay. ‘Eventually, we said ‘that’s enough waiting’.’

Mr. Duguay said Mr. Conolly had a right to sue over the report if he wanted to.

‘He threatened to sue even before (the report) was published,’ he said. ‘We sent it to (the Government Legal Department) and they didn’t suggest any changes because they didn’t find anything actionable,’ he said.

‘Any lawsuit will be vigorously defended with all the resources we have because we feel it is a fair report.’

The Burns Conolly Group disagreed with the Auditor General’s claim in the report that it did not consult with the Port Authority for change requests, calling the assertion ‘a grossly inaccurate and misleading statement’.

Mr. Duguay said the Port Authority management gave him the view that they were not consulted with on change requests. Even after they were made aware of Mr. Conolly’s views otherwise, the Port Authority did not want to change its view, Mr. Duguay said.

Rather than trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong in the dispute over whether or not there was consultation with regard to the change requests, Mr. Duguay said they decided to just include the fact that there were differing views.

‘That just proves our point there was miscommunication (between the Port Authority and the Burns Conolly Group) on the issue,’ Mr. Duguay said.

Although the Auditor General’s office did not come to any conclusion as to who was right and who was wrong on the issue, Mr. Duguay said there should have been documentation for all the change requests, noting that only ‘a couple’ of the changes were fully documented.

‘The vast majority of the change orders did not have a properly documented and signed agreement for the price and scope of works,’ he said.

‘When you just discuss things, people tend to forget things. Discussing it is fine, but you have to document it at the end of the day.’

Mr. Duguay also dismissed the suggestion that his office did not understand the industry nature of the project arrangement.

‘We understand the concept of design-and-build,’ he said. ‘It’s not a foreign concept to us. We commented in the report about it.’

With regard to Hurlston Ltd., which also put out a press release criticising the report, Mr. Duguay was not sure why that company thinks the report states they overcharged for work.

‘My complaints are not with Hurlston,’ he said. ‘The Port Authority picked a contractor that was higher than the lowest bidder and did not explain why.

‘We’re not saying that they had to take the lowest bidder, but if they were going to take a higher bidder, they should say why so that everyone can be sure there was value for money.

‘My question is to the Port Authority is why did they take Hurlston’s bid when there was a lower bidder.

‘It doesn’t mean (Hurlston’s) bid was too high, it just means that someone else would do it cheaper.’

The Auditor General’s report came to the conclusion that the $18.5 million project could have been completed for $4.2 million less.

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