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Audit highlights weak bid process on Olympic village, city risks

October 6th, 2009 · 12 Comments

It was a field day for media today in trying to report once again on the very complicated Olympic village project. You could tell people were a little overwhelmed by the material today, as city manager Penny Ballem gave an update on the project and presented the KPMG audient results that had been ordered last winter, because media were all reporting wildly different pieces of it.

Some of the reporting was just plain confusing. Over at my old paper, the Sun, Miro Cernetig was reporting that the project’s overruns have escalated to $131 million — a number no one else I know could find anywhere in or out of the audit report. Others ended up reporting old news, e.g. the cost overruns could eliminate the profits, the cost overruns could be bad news for the social housing, etc.

From my read and what Penny Ballem told me directly, the cost-overrun projection of $125 million hasn’t changed in about nine months. What was news in the audit, which was turned into the city in mid-January and only released now, was the audit team’s assessment of the way Millennium was awarded the bid (not good), its assessment of how well Millennium was doing in terms of meeting project deadlines or providing regular information to the city or paying its contractors (not so good) and what the potential risk was to the city if the condo-market didn’t recover ( a little to a lot, depending).

Ballem also provided some bits of information more recent than last January in her briefing. The Tyee noted that the project has missed a couple of deadlines for turning buildings over to Vanoc. And others focused on what the mayor had to say about the previous administration’s management of the project. (“A train wreck”)

It could be a fun exercise for all of you to a) read the audit report and b) listen to the video from Tuesday’s meeting and decide what you, if you were a reporter or editor, would decide was the most important fact or development to lead with. I urge you to try it. As for me, this is what I ended up focusing on in my story for the Globe here.

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