Privatized B.C. highways need better oversight

'Ministry of Transportation needs to take back control of costs and operational outcomes to determine value for money.'

Vancouver (1 May 2009) - The B.C. government should take direct control of highway maintenance services "in one or two strategic areas" to determine whether privatized highway services are offering good value to taxpayers, says a report commissioned by the British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE).

BCGEU commissioned the firm of Blair Mackay Mynett Valuations Inc. last fall to prepare a report on the issue. In a letter to BCGEU president Darryl Walker, respected forensic accountant Ron Parks presents the results of the evaluation undertaken by the company.

He reports that it is virtually impossible to determine the efficiency of privatized highway services because the government has not been collecting the information that would allow meaningful comparison of public and private service delivery.

"Unfortunately, after more than 20 years of privatized highway maintenance, the information is not available on a current enough basis to conduct a meaningful value for money assessment," Parks writes.

"Re-establishing the ministry [of transportation's] knowledge about input costs and operational outcomes would enable effective value for money assessments and administration of services delivered by the private sector."

Parks says his recommendation to take a highways maintenance contract back under direct government control could be put into effect as early as 2013, when all highways contracts next come up for renewal.

He also recommends that long-term contracts include "windows" in which the ministry can conduct financial value analyses and return work to public hands if necessary.

Walker, whose union represents 2,000 highways maintenance workers employed by private contractors across B.C., says taxpayers deserve to know whether highway maintenance privatization has saved money or cost taxpayers more.

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

More information:
Blair Mackay Mynett Valuations Inc. report to BCGEU - pdf

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