Metrolinx rehires contractors despite bad work, AG report finds

Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

By Shawn Jeffords, Political Bureau Chief

Premier Kathleen Wynne at the groundbreaking for the Laird Station on the Eglinton Crosstown project along with Metrolinx CEO Bruce McQuiag, and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, on June 30, 2016. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)

Premier Kathleen Wynne at the groundbreaking for the Laird Station on the Eglinton Crosstown project along with Metrolinx CEO Bruce McQuiag, and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, on June 30, 2016. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)

Toronto - 

Do a crappy job for Metrolinx and odds are that won’t prevent the agency from hiring you again and again and again.

Ontario’s auditor general says the troubled transit agency does not hold contractors and design consultants accountable for work that is late or inadequate. In her annual report, released Wednesday, Bonnie Lysyk also says that shoddy work doesn’t disqualify a contractor from being hired again by Metrolinx.

“The lack of progress to hold construction contractors accountable contributes to projects being completed late, inconveniences commuters, and adds extra costs for Metrolinx and taxpayers,” Lysyk said.

The auditor cites the example of one contractor who was terminated because of poor performance — then subsequently re-hired for another job.

“Metrolinx should implement a system to ensure it does not rehire poorly performing contractors, and it should introduce penalties such as late fines,” she added.

Late delivery of projects has cost taxpayers millions, the auditor says. Her office randomly sampled eight Metrolinx projects and found the agency had paid contractors $2 million — or 150% — more than was budgeted. Metrolinx rarely takes actions against contractors for late delivery, the audit says.

In one case, a contractor was awarded 22 more projects — totalling more than $90 million — after performing poorly for the agency in 2009.

“We reviewed the contractor’s performance on a few of these 22 projects and noted that project staff continued to rate its performance as poor,” the report notes.

“The decision-making needs to be, what would the person on the street like us think about somebody getting maybe five tries, and they still get it wrong every single time,” Lysyk said. “Or 22 tries.”

Metrolinx continues to allow the contractor to bid for work, the report notes.

In the past five years, Metrolinx has completed 520 construction projects, which cost $4.1 billion. Over the next 10 years, they will spend $27 billion on new public transit.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca said the MTO reviewed Metrolinx over the summer and provided it with a new mandate letter that tightens government control of the agency.

“It is my view that these proactive steps will help to address the recommendations made by the auditor general with respect to Metrolinx,” he said.

PC critic Michael Harris said the report further undermines trust in the agency to deliver on billions in transit projects over the next decade.

“Metrolinx accounts for one in every $7 in Ontario’s capital spending,” he said. “The Wynne Liberals are allowing Metrolinx to spend freely with zero oversight and accountability.”

The audit also raises concerns about deals Metrolinx strikes with CN and CP railways to use or build track. It found that the agency does not have “adequate processes” in place to consistently ensure value for money in these deals. It has also been paying “excessively high” markups when CN builds new rails.

sjeffords@postmedia.com