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Untendered Contracts at the City of Toronto

Is the City of Toronto financially bankrupt or just morally bankrupt?

Thursday, April 2, 2009
by Adam K. Anderson

With Toronto Mayor David Miller’s latest city operating budget at $8.7 Billion, an irresponsible increase of 7% over the previous year being easily passed by Toronto city council, journalists, pundits and ordinary citizens are claiming that Mayor Miller and his minions are spending like drunken sailors.

I for one am outraged with this comparison.

Sailors travel many miles regardless of treacherous climes to work hard for a living, and when they come to port, as the stories of yore go, they would spend their money to excess, to release the tensions of months of lonely tedious work to imbibe to excess in a public house.

Our politicians travel thousands of miles on junkets in luxury, claiming it is for the necessary investigations, coming back to spend the public’s money to excess, drunken in their hubris, preaching to excess under the supervision of their omnipotent despot at city council.

I have respect for sailors.

We could talk about the many city pools being closed, street potholes seldom repaired, or the 1,150 city employees whose base salaries are over $100,000 nevermind the other 400 employed by the city who with overtime make over $100,000 a year including 21 TTC subway station ticket collectors. This is excluding the 1,006 Toronto police officers who make over $100,000.

Or how about the $1,000,000 "environmental" toilet at Exhibition Place designed to prove that toilets can be flushed with rainwater, except the rain only supplies 30% of what was needed so the city decided to extend a pipe well into Lake Ontario to get the balance.

One would think that the lunatics are running the asylum, but it is far more cynical than that.

Let’s look at one tiny example of largesse paid for by city taxpayers.

The city created a bit over a decade ago the so-called Tenant Defence Sub-Committee.

The Police Services Committee oversees $850 million.

The Grants Committee oversees $50 million.

But Tenant Defence Sub-Committee oversees about $500 thousand. Yet, there is all the clerical administration for one committee, that appears to have accomplished little other than promoting itself and one group the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, (FMTA).

In 2000 the committee had 12 city councillors as members including a few alternates.

From 2001-2005 the committee had 8 members.

From 2006-2008 the committee was down to 7 members.

Then for the March 25, 2009 the committee, it is now down to only 5 members, and Sub-committee Chair, Councillor Anthony Perruzza never even bothered to show up, but the meeting went on.

It is a clear waste of taxpayers dollars.

This is by far the smallest city committee based upon its membership, by the “projects” it oversees and by its budget by a couple of orders of magnitude, so why is so much city time and therefore staff money spent on it.

From the membership numbers and the many cancelled meetings the past couple of years, it looks like even city councillors have little interest in it.

Shouldn’t the money be given out for what it really is, a number of grants to be handled by the Grants Committee, or are the Tenant Defence Sub-Committee members afraid this largesse might get what little bit more scrutiny the spending would get there?

It appears that the purpose of the Tenant Defence sub-Committee is to bypass the Grants Committee because the FMTA probably could not meet the Grants Committee meagre criteria, which hopefully would be:

  1. Proven need for unique services
  2. A Public Tender process
  3. Audits

Almost all of the items they chatter on about relate to zoning and property standards for which there already is another committee much larger committee.

Total budget handled by the Committee is estimated at about $1/2 million, all going to the Federation of Metro Tenants’ Associations, without any tenders.

The FMTA’s self-reporting is the only scrutiny required by the Sub-Committee. There has never been an independent financial nor organizational audit of FMTA.

The FMTA gets over 95% of its operating revenue from the City. Funding the FMTA seems to be the sole purpose of this Committee and what projects it claims to do.

So, what is the "service" that FMTA provides? The "service" provided by FMTA is political support of City Council incumbents. Period!

Why else have a City Committee, with all the time wasted on Committee meetings, minutes, staff time and all the costs that a City Committee incurs, when the City already has the Grants Committee handle such funding? What is different about the type of service provided by the FMTA from the types of services funded by the Grants Committee?

What type of agency is the FMTA? What type of useful unique and credible public service does it provide? If it is in fact providing a service, then why is there no call for tenders to provide best value for these services? Why has there never been an independent financial audit? Why does this agency not get funding from the United Way or other social service funders, probably because, the FMTA does not meet their critera for a legitimate social service.

Of this money, over $200,000 a year the FMTA gets is for a "purchase of service contract" to be the City’s "Outreach Organizing Team" for tenants. Why the city needs to be organizing tenants if it isn’t for political purposes is beyond me. But if this lobby group was so good doing this job for so many years funded very generously by the city you would expect their membership numbers from their "organizing" to be a good proprotion of the 1.2 million tenants in Toronto.

In one of last year’s city Tenant Defence Sub-Committee meetings Federation of Metro Tenants’s association head honcho Dan McIntyre was claiming 6,000 members, but if you go to their website they claim over 3,000, yet their numbers show their membership to be under 1000 and in decline. Why does the city say this group represents all the city’s tenants when their membership makes up maybe 0.2% of tenants, if it isn’t for political purposes?

Then look at the FMTA’s website, ordered by the city in a 1999 city contract for an annual $15,000. Though the taxpayer’s started shelling out for a 1999 website, it wasn’t even put up until Labour Day 2000.

This lobby group cares so little about providing value for all their public largesse that now in April of 2009, on their publicly funded website they still haven’t listed the 2009 Annual Rent Increase Guideline of 1.8% even though it was announced more than 9 months ago and we are past three months into this new year. They only list the unneeded 2007 and 2008 rates. Obviously they don’t want to waste the time on the tenants when they can be spending it on the politicians who pay their unaudited salaries.

So why am I telling you about this one “little abuse” at the City Hall public trough? To give you nightmares considering there could easily be another hundred other Federation’s or other groups, favoured by city councillors because of the political support they also provide to encumbent politicians.

Just remember that in 2006, only one encumbent city councillor lost their bid for re-election.

"We have seen the enemy and they is us!" Think about that when you go to vote on November 8, 2010, in Toronto’s next municipal elections.




Newspaper Reader Comments:

The Federation of tenants are the worse slimeballs there are.

They say they can prevent you from being evicted it you buy a membership and it is all lies.

The information they give on their city funded Tenant Hotline is often wrong.

But many city councillors support them because when the city sends tenants to them the Federation keep the tenants names and then call them up at election time to help out those councillors who supported the Federation's yearly increase in city funding.

Posted by Bianca on 04/04 at 06:30 PM