March 4, 2016 7:33 am

$18M consulting services budget for Saskatoon in 2015 divisive topic

WATCH ABOVE: A report shows the City of Saskatoon spent $18 million dollars last year on private consultants a number much higher than other centres. Jackie Wilson finds out what work was being done and whether the extra cost was necessary.

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SASKATOON – The City of Saskatoon released a consultant services report on Wednesday, detailing a breakdown of costs. The report shows the city spent an estimated $18.63 million in 2015, with $15.95 million spent on capital projects and the other $2.68 million on operational consultants. Those numbers represent around 4.27 per cent 0.41 per cent the total operating budget, respectively.

In total 112 capital and 117 operation vendors were used by the city in 2015.

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The reports states that consultants provide “a specialized skill set; expertise in a particular field; an objective, unbiased opinion; or access to technology not available in house.”

According to the city’s chief financial officer, Kerry Tarasoff, using consultants is the most “prudent way to do business.”

“To have someone hired in house you’re going to have to probably pay premium salaries, you’re going to have benefits, and then they’re going to sit there un-utilized … So it only makes sense to use an expert when you need them,” says Tarasoff.

READ MORE: Saskatoon Light & Power apologizes for damages caused by power surge

The city is being criticized for the high number compared to other city centres like Toronto, which spent just over $11 million in 2014.

But according to Tarasoff, comparing cities is like comparing apples to oranges because each defines consulting services differently.

“What we presented in our report was our full consulting and professional services contracts for 2015. The other city’s that have reported are reporting only consulting expenditures, which are studies,” says Tarasoff, “So if we stripped out that information out of our report we would be $1.8 million versus $18 million because the rest is for professional services.”

However, not everyone is on board with the city’s consulting plan. Ward 2 Coun. Pat Lorje is speaking out and she’s saying it’s a waste of in-house resources.

“I actually think we should be asking our staff to give us opinions first and foremost, rather than ‘job-ing’ everything out to external consultants,” says Lorje.

For Lorje the solution is simple: utilize the resources the city already has.

“I’m hoping that council will act on that and start to ask our own staff to do more.”

According to the report, other notable capital projects include:

  • $3.98 million on the Civic Operations Centre, North Commuter Parkway and Traffic Bridge;
  • $1.15 million on the 42nd Street Reservoir project;
  • $2.62 million on interchanges and bridges;
  • $0.543 million on the Growth Plan to Half a Million; and
  • $0.585 million on the Remai Modern Art Gallery of Saskatchewan.

According to the report, other notable operating expenditures include:

  • $0.321 million on Employee Family Assistance Program;
  • $0.213 million on internal audio services from PricewaterhouseCoopers; and
  • $0.139 million on website Drupal support from Zu.

The report is schedule to be discussed at the city’s financial meeting on Monday, March 7.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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