Gravy found! Some of the juiciest bits of fat in the TCHC audit will get in the way of the real scandal

Gravy found! Some of the juiciest bits of fat in the TCHC audit will get in the way of the real scandal

By now the whole city knows the story of the city’s auditor general’s report [PDF] on the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, and how mayor Rob Ford has called for the non-elected members of the TCHC board to resign. The stuff that has gotten the most play in the news accounts of the reports includes:

  • More than $90,000 for Christmas dinners in 2008 and 2009
  • $1,000 in Holt Renfrew chocolates
  • $6,000 for a Muskoka getaway
  • $5,000 in one restaurant in 2009 alone

All told, bad expensing may have cost TCHC $200,000 a year. But while this is, as we say, the talking-point fodder that Rob Ford needed to refresh his “respect for taxpayers” verbal arsenal, the real scandal is in the details that probably won’t get as much attention, if only because they’re less obviously and comically wasteful. That includes stuff like:

  • An MFP-like story of a Chinese contract for fluorescent light bulbs that turned in to a $5-million purchase of a plethora of renovation needs (sinks, tile, faucets, etc.)
  • A sole-sourced $25-million contract based on a vendor pitch
  • Staff deliberately splitting up orders to come under less scrutiny for purchases (a big no-no)

The auditor general estimates that this stuff—the drier and more mundane accounting issues—cost the TCHC somewhere between $4 and $10 million, or at least 20 times what the inappropriate staff expenses cost the city. And that’s a conservative estimate. Because this stuff doesn’t lend itself to quick, bumper sticker–style outrage, we expect that it won’t be as widely discussed as Thousand-Dollar! Muskoka! Getaways! But hopefully that won’t get in the way of solving both problems.

Procurement Policies Are Not Being Followed (PDF) [Auditor General of Toronto]
Controls Over Employee Expenses Are Ineffective (PDF) [Auditor General of Toronto]
Ford calls for purge at housing agency after auditor finds misspending [Globe and Mail]
• Chris Selley: Housing Corp.’s spending the gravy Ford was looking for [National Post]

(Image: Naval History & Heritage Command)