One of British Columbia most respected investigative and forensic accountants is raising a concern about the government's plan to have Partnership British Columbia review many of the province's new municipal capital projects. Last month, Premier Gordon Campbell announced projects costing more than $20 million and receiving provincial funding would have to be reviewed by the government-owned company. The reason: the firm will be taking a "hard look at how that project might be built as a public-private partnership."
Speaking with Public Eye, Ron Parks, a Blair Mackay Mynett Valuations Inc. team member, said he thinks Partnerships British Columbia staff "have the expertise to look at a project and determine whether it meets the criteria - whatever they may be at the time - for a successful P3. But the problem is, it's somewhat self-serving. Because the more projects they can promote or have their involvement in, the better." After all, the company's core businesses include promoting "a business and policy environment for successful public private partnerships" and provide "specialized services" for those projects.
Mr. Parks also confirmed those reviews could be done by a private consulting company. "There's a lot of expertise out there. A lot of the work that has been doing putting together these P3s and the consulting work associated with them has been done by the likes of KPMG and PWC and Deloitte and Ernst and Young and so on. And they've all developed that expertise with some pretty smart people involved."
So why is the Campbell administration giving Partnerships British Columbia a monopoly to perform those reviews? Why not determine who gets that work via a competitive bid process, which the government-owned company could compete in?
In an interview, Premier Campbell explained, "Partnerships B.C. is recognized throughout the country throughout the country for its leadership and it's quality of service and the work it's done. There have been contracts with other provinces. I think, in British Columbia, we should actually celebrate the quality of service that we do have. Partnerships B.C. is clearly a leader in that regard. And so we want to maximize the value of the service we get."
But some might see this as an anti-competitive announcement? "I haven't seen other people that are doing the work Partnerships B.C. is doing. Partnerships B.C. looks at long-term business plans, it's scope of work, at how it can be done. And so far, what we've realized with Partnerships B.C., is about $310 million in savings and $4.7 billion of activities. So we're looking at maximizing values for taxpayers. That's what our major goal is."
Earlier, Public Eye reported municipalities may have to pay for these mandatory reviews.