Victoria advocacy group pushes for audit on sewage plan

Sewage Treatment Action Group sends audit request to provincial government

A local advocacy group is hoping the municipal or provincial auditors general will review the Capital Regional District’s $783-million sewage treatment project, an option that could be pursued under both offices’ mandates.

The Sewage Treatment Action Group (STAG), a community group of concerned citizens, sent audit requests on the CRD mega-project to federal, provincial and local auditors general last week; the group claims the current project costs have been grossly underestimated.

Each level of government is responsible for funding one-third of the CRD project, while Greater Victoria taxpayers will cover any cost overruns.

“We’re hoping that by getting at least one level of government to look at how this money is being spent, we can stop this thing from going sideways fast,” said Carole Witter, STAG representative.

The newly established auditor general for local government has the power to audit capital procurement as well as infrastructure asset management, said Mark Tatchell, municipal deputy auditor general.

“(The CRD sewage project) is an area that would fall within that particular theme … but we haven’t disclosed any planned performance audit on that particular project at this stage,” Tatchell said.

The office remains open to auditing “emerging issues” in the coming months, he added.

B.C.’s auditor general can look into any project where provincial funding is contributed, said communications manager Colleen Rose, adding she could not speak to specific cases.

“If there’s an issue that arises that has some immediacy, we can jump on things and be flexible, but because audits are planned well in advance, it would be a number of months down the road before a new audit was even started, not to mention the duration to finish it,” she said.

The current sewage treatment project includes a wastewater treatment plant, to be built at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt, and a biosolids facility planned for either Hartland landfill in Saanich or Viewfield Road in Esquimalt.

Both facilities are in the early stages of tendering, with an estimated completion date of 2018.