Report reveals $47M cost overrun for Edmonton’s photo enforcement program

WATCH: Plenty of questions are being asked about a report on Edmonton’s photo enforcement program. Vinesh Pratap reports.

EDMONTON — It has cost the city more than seven times as much as was forecast to take on the photo radar program, the city auditor has found.

“Something obviously went very wrong,” Mayor Don Iveson said Monday. “You can’t let something get this far off track without letting council know.”
Office of the City Auditor
Office of the City Auditor

The auditor’s report shows that costs to take over photo enforcement from a private contractor ballooned from the $6.7 million projected in a 2007 business plan to $53.6 million.

“Nothing’s ever going to be 100 per cent accurate. You have to take some risks,” Iveson said. “But they were way off on some major assumptions like the availability of software, the cost of equipment, the regulatory environment changed.”

An American firm, Affiliated Computer Services, managed photo radar for the city until 2006, when the company was charged with bribing Edmonton police officers. The charges were dismissed, however, the city brought the program in-house the following year.

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“I can’t say it forced a rush, but certainly there was probably an urgency to look at how quickly we could move it in-house and what that transition would look like,” said Gord Cebryk, branch manager of Transportation Operations. “Our goal was to get the system up as quickly as possible but we ran into a number of challenges that were unforeseen.”

Asked if photo enforcement has been stepped up to help pay for the overruns, Cebryk said “any changes in enforcement levels have been strictly tied to us trying to make the citizens safer on the road system.”

READ MORE: Photo radar: cash cow or safety initiative?

He said he wasn’t involved in the project at the time, but believes accountability for the overruns lies with “the department general managers, the branch managers, and the city manager in each type of project.”

Councillor Mike Nickel said it looks to him like “the buck’s being passed.”

“I have only two employees as a city councillor — and that’s the auditor and that’s the city manager. So, at the end of the day, that’s where the buck stops.”

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Iveson said that rather “than putting a head on a stake,” he looks at this as a learning opportunity. In future, he expects that council will be notified sooner when a project runs into trouble.

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The auditor made no recommendations but concluded that photo radar has become more efficient over time. The cost overruns were covered by revenue from photo radar fines, which is also higher than initially projected.

You can read the full report below:

With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News

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