February 22, 2006
Radar firm in more trouble

The company that handles the city's photo radar program has found itself in trouble again - this time in Winnipeg.

And the mess has likely cost the Manitoba capital nearly $50 million, Winnipeg city auditor Shannon Hunt states in a new report.

Hunt said police there rushed to award a contract to ACS Public Sector Solutions three years ago to get photo radar up and running quickly.

But cops failed to exercise due diligence, didn't have the appropriate financial skills to properly evaluate ACS's bid and misled city councillors, according to Hunt's report.

"The end result was revenue projections that were significantly overstated, costs that do not appear to be reasonable for the service delivered and contracts that do not adequately protect the city from financial risk," wrote Hunt.

Edmonton Coun. Michael Phair said Winnipeg's woes didn't come as a shock.

"Having seen the charges recently laid here, I'm not surprised, but it is disappointing," Phair said.

"If things were done here that were not proper, it wouldn't surprise me that's the way they did business elsewhere."

Brian Gibson, chairman of the Edmonton Police Commission, said he didn't want to comment on the specific problems facing ACS.

Photo radar, in place in Winnipeg since 2003, nabbed more than 317,000 drivers in its first two years and has made the city a total profit of $1.8 million, far from the $20 million projected.

Hunt said ACS should have been paid on a per-ticket basis instead of a flat fee, which would have mitigated the shortfall.

Hunt called on police to reopen the contract with ACS and attempt to negotiate a better deal. But the city is locked into a five-year agreement that gives ACS about $6 million a year, even though photo radar hasn't made nearly as much money from tickets as expected.