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Montreal VG criticizes OCPM's management of expenses

Photo: Marie-France Coallier Le Devoir Following media coverage of excessive spending at the OCPM, the City's general auditor looked into the organization's governance and management framework. In the photo, Montreal City Hall in June 2024.

Jeanne Corriveau

Posted yesterday at 16:45 Updated yesterday at 18:28

  • Montreal

Without an adequate governance framework, the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) acted as an entity independent of the City, which led the organization to incur expenses and award contracts whose relevance has not been demonstrated, estimates the General Auditor (VG) of the City of Montreal in her annual report.

Following the media coverage of expenses excessive made to the OCPM, the new general auditor of the City, Andrée Cossette, looked into the governance and management framework of the organization created in 2002.

From the outset, she notes that in addition to benefiting from operational independence linked to its mission, the OCPM has granted itself administrative independence from the City, an independence that has never been questioned by the latter, she indicates. “The presidency exclusively embodied the governance of the OCPM without a rigorous management framework or an effective and formal external monitoring mechanism. This has notably led to expenses whose necessity and relevance could not be demonstrated,” underlines her report.

The AG notably examined the organization's expenditures made in 2018, 2019, 2022 and 2023. (The years 2020 and 2021 were excluded, being considered unrepresentative due to the COVID-19 pandemic.) This period, the AG recorded official expenses totaling $134,000, including $71,356 allocated to travel (for a total of $262,000 for the period 2014 to 2023). In particular, she scrutinized 411 transactions. Of this number, only 162, or 40%, respected the expenditure scale used by the City of Montreal, while 59% were from one to more than four times higher than the established scale.

The VG also focused on expenses for meals taken in restaurants and including, in certain cases, alcohol. “Due to their recurrence, the costs incurred, the weakness of the justification and the confidentiality of the subjects that could be discussed, it is reasonable to question whether holding these discussions in a public place such as a restaurant was wise,” underlines the VG.

The trips

As for travel outside the country, the OCPM did not have a complete portrait of the missions abroad carried out during the period from 2014 to 2023, indicates the VG. The organization still noted 53 trips, an average of nearly 7 trips per year, including 43 made by members of management. “No major irregularities in travel expenses and costs outside the Montreal region were noted during the reference period,” the report indicates. “Although errors or breaches are observed, the consequences are minor, but may nevertheless demonstrate deficiencies in the effectiveness of controls. »

The VG nevertheless noted flaws in the reports of ten missions, some being non-existent or very summary. “Considering the absence of a documented prior analysis justifying the carrying out of a mission and the lack of rigor in the drafting of mission reports, the necessity and added value of missions abroad carried out during the reference period are not demonstrated. »

The rules governing the awarding of contracts were rather free at the OCPM. It was therefore common practice to award contracts over the counter. The VG mentions, without naming it, a resource who was hired as a “process coordinator” and who benefited from 17 separate contracts over the audited period for a total sum of $250,000.

The Auditor General formulates a series of recommendations to provide the OCPM with a governance framework including “transparent” reporting and an optimized budgetary process.

Remember that in the wake of the revelations about expenses at the OCPM made by Quebecor last fall, the organization was placed under supervision and its president, Isabelle Beaulieu, dismissed. A week earlier, Dominique Ollivier, who had also led the OCPM from 2014 to 2021, had resigned from the presidency of the City's executive committee.

Monday, municipal council has also approved the appointment of Philippe Bourke, former president of the Office of Public Hearings on the Environment (BAPE), as president of the OCPM.

Delay in inspections of low-income housing

In its report, the VG was also interested in the management of low-rent housing by the Office municipal d’habitation de Montréal (OMHM). The data reveals that in April 2023, 79% of OMHM buildings were in poor or very poor condition, but this rate dropped to 61% in November 2023. Since 2022, only 4,768 housing units have been inspected, so that nearly 16,000 should have been if the rules of the Société d'habitation du Québec were respected, specifies the report.

The VG also looked into on the universal accessibility of City of Montreal buildings and on project management at the Société du parc Jean-Drapeau, in addition to carrying out intrusion tests of the City's computer systems in order to verify their security .

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116