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October 27, 2009

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Taxpayers and elected officials overdue to talk about sewage treatment business case

VICTORIA – It’s past time for some public discussion about how sewage treatment will be financed and managed.

A report to the Capital Regional District’s Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee on October 28 says that the cost for procurement consultants Ernst and Young Orenda will nearly double to $599,000 by February 2010, up from an original 2007 budget of $306,360.

The procurement consultants’ role is to review business models for sewage treatment, including how it will be financed, managed and operated, and whether it will be privatized.

“With costs for procurement consultants nearly double the original budget, citizens are still in the dark about what the CRD has in mind. And as important, the CRD has yet to have a proper public engagement process about procurement,” says Kim Manton, sewage treatment campaign coordinator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“Elected councilors on the core area committee were promised a discussion paper on procurement options in early October, but that paper has still not appeared. Procurement decisions which were supposed to have been made in November are now slipping off into February. The only procurement decision the committee is making is to double the amount paid to consultants,” says Manton.

Manton is concerned that while CRD consultants and senior managers are studying the discredited public/private partnership (P3) model for delivery of some or the entire sewage treatment project, elected members of the CRD board have not yet reviewed any options or implications of the P3 idea.

“Unlike other aspects of the project, there has been no public consultation on procurement. It’s long past time to bring the general public and elected officials in on this. P3s are expensive and the operating costs are paid over several decades, so this decision is really important to everyone in the region. What’s the big secret? Instead of approving more money for consultants, the Core Area Liquid Waste Management Committee should be demanding the discussion paper on procurement it has long been promised,” Manton concluded.

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