July 2, 2014 6:06 pm

Winnipeg city council gets first look at real estate audit

WINNIPEG — City councillors have been waiting for years for an audit of Winnipeg’s real estate transactions, and on Wednesday they finally set eyes on it.

The transactions the audit looked at include the conversion of a downtown Canada Post building into police headquarters, dealings around Parcel Four at the edge of The Forks and the sale of the Winnipeg Square parkade and Canad Inns Stadium site.

“It sounds like another damning report,” said Colin Craig, with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

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In the case of the police headquarters, the city bought the old Canada Post building for around $30 million as part of a $135 million plan to convert it. The building isn’t open yet and the cost of the project has skyrocketed to $210 million.

The audit revealed there was no appraisal for the building and the city never looked at any other locations to house officers.

Also among the findings, when councillors were considering selling Parcel Four at The Forks to a private investors to build a water park, they were told the property was worth $5.9 million. They were never told about another $10-million appraisal.

When it comes to accountability, some councillors say it is too late.

“I do think there is some responsibility from the former CAO, who we can’t fire because he has already been given a golden handshake,” said Jenny Gerbasi, who initially called for the audit back in 2012 after questions were raised about the fire hall replacement program, under which the city built a fire hall on Taylor Avenue on land it didn’t own.

The mayor said despite the request for an audit, this is nothing more than a review.

“When they start using the word opinion, you don’t have opinions in an audit,” said Sam Katz. “An audit is done on factual based information and real evidence.”

The auditors did not talk to the former CAO Phil Sheegl, as well as anyone at Shindico Realty. That company’s name was indirectly mentioned several times.

“It wasn’t a review or an audit,” said Sandy Shindleman, with Shindico. “If they can talk about projects that we are involved with without speaking with us it was neither. It was a waste of time and a waste of money.”

RELATED: $40-million price tag to refurbish Winnipeg’s Public Safety Building

© Shaw Media, 2014

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