Metrolinx under fire for CN, CP deals

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Metrolinx is defending itself against allegations that it may have wasted taxpayers money by not exercising oversight on railroad construction contracts — deals that saw the agency charged excessive mark-ups, invoiced for work it didn’t verify had been performed, and billed for projects on privately owned track that had nothing to do with agency operations. The concerns stem from a report by the Ontario auditor general that determined Metrolinx has paid two railway companies, CN and CP, “without verifying most costs” and has footed the bill for charges “unrelated to its projects, such as costs for maintaining CN railway track.”The report came out last month, but its findings were in the spotlight again last week after an article was posted to a website run by the U.S.-based Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation. That article alleged that CN got millions of dollars from the provincially owned transit agency for work that was never done, and inflated construction costs by as much as 900 per cent. The Star did not verify claims made in the SURF report, which contained no allegations about CP. Both companies deny any wrongdoing. Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk didn’t quantify how much money Metrolinx may have spent on improper charges, and in most cases didn’t provide details of when the deals investigated took place. But her report noted that the agency has paid CN and CP $725 million for track construction and upgrades in the last five years.Article Continued BelowIn an email to the Star, a spokesperson for Metrolinx said the findings of Lysyk’s report “were based on a review of a small sample” of work conducted “approximately 10 years ago, before GO Transit was part of Metrolinx.” “We do review and agree on the scope of work to be completed, review the work that has been completed, and ensure that invoices accurately reflect the work that was delivered,” wrote Vanessa Barrasa. “We are not aware of any situation where Metrolinx has funded work that has not benefitted GO services and our customers. We are not aware of any circumstances where Metrolinx or, previously, GO Transit, was charged by CN for work that was never completed.”A spokesperson for CN said the auditor general’s report "unfairly characterizes CN’s productive relationship with Metrolinx and our overall business practices."  (Graham Hughes)  

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