More negative impacts of Patrick Brown’s budget cuts—Brampton neglecting proper funding for critical services
More fallout has been highlighted from Patrick Brown’s financial mismanagement since becoming mayor, as his budget cuts are being felt by departments across the municipal government.
The City of Brampton is failing to properly maintain its wide ranging fleet of vehicles: departments are not completing Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports which are necessary for vehicle operators to be aware of potential mechanical or safety issues, and preventative maintenance inspection forms are also not always finished, causing an increased risk of incomplete inspections that do not detect potentially dangerous problems. The Internal Audit department which recently completed a review of the City’s fleet management has red flagged a number of other issues.
The recent audit measured the maintenance of Brampton’s fleet against “effectiveness of the preventative maintenance program, compliance to Ministry of Transportation (MTO) regulations, approval and monitoring of vendor spending, and physical access to inventory.” The internal watchdog found “process deficiencies” impacting the City’s fleet maintenance activities. A “full scope Fleet Maintenance audit” hasn’t been completed since 2012, while the recently completed work reviewed maintenance activity between January 1, 2021 and September 30, 2023. Due to a lack of proper funding, work has to be sent to outside facilities for maintenance and repairs since Brampton only has two garages, the Williams Parkway Operations Centre and Sandalwood Operations yard. A lack of proper oversight of this is setting the City up for financial problems.
According to the report, Fleet Maintenance & Operations falls under the Road Maintenance, Operations & Fleet division which is part of Public Works and Engineering. The City’s Fleet Maintenance & Operations group is responsible for performing maintenance and repairs to “all vehicles and equipment, excluding vehicles managed by the Fire & Emergency Division and the Transit Division.” These involve “light” vehicles like compact cars, vans and SUVs, and also include “heavy” vehicles, such as larger trucks like dump trucks, plow trucks or garbage trucks, among others.
(City of Brampton/Internal Audit)
The audit revealed that the City’s preventive maintenance policy does not define the required mileage and maintenance interval and that “the guideline for all city vehicles is the earlier of 10,000 km or 12 months,” but states this interval is applied to all vehicles despite the facts that manufacturers have their own service interval recommendations that can differ from the simple guidelines the City provides. The audit revealed that in most cases, the general guidelines set by the City do “not align with manufacturers recommended maintenance.”
While there is a mismatch resulting in certain vehicles not getting the proper maintenance service they require, the audit also found maintenance for vehicles under the City’s guidelines are not even always done.
“Not maintaining vehicles within established time and mileage intervals increases the risk of breakdowns and repairs, render future maintenance and repairs more costly, and can reduce the life of the vehicle,” the audit warns. By not “integrating the manufacturers recommended service intervals,” it cannot be ensured that the maintenance program is working optimally for every vehicle which can also result in manufacturer warranties going void.
The audit also found not all of Brampton’s vehicles have their mileage updated, making it hard to know if they are safe to drive.
Under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, vehicles with a gross weight of 4,500 kilograms or more are required to receive regular inspections. This is supposed to be done through the completion of a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) by the vehicle operators at the beginning of every shift, with “any defects affecting the safe operation of the vehicle” to be “recorded and reported to the Supervisor.” The audit found these reports “are seldom completed by user departments,” and that “it has been an ongoing challenge to get operators to comply with this requirement.” The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) can issue fines or penalties if a vehicle is being operated without a completed DVIR.
“If a vehicle is found to be operating with a major defect, it can result in up to a $20,000 fine and the vehicle being Impounded,” the audit report states.
Spending on vendors is not going through the required competitive procurement process, compromising the effectiveness of procurement activity, leaving the door open to abuse of taxpayer dollars. Departments are unable to approve a total contract amount without a competitive tender procedure in place reducing oversight and accountability of spending on external contracts being handed out without proper scrutiny and a proper competitive process to ensure taxpayers are getting value for their money.
Due to the lack of garages in the City (Brampton only has two) there are “capacity and resource constraints” and when repair overflow is contracted outside of its two facilities—which occurs often—the necessary steps around purchasing policies and procedures must be followed.
The City is also setting itself up for overcharges going undetected by not having “a proper process to reconcile invoice charges with contracted rates…”.
“A review of 15 invoices for outside repairs during the audit period noted that in some cases, the hourly labour rate on the invoice does not agree to the contract… One vendor is regularly charging $169 per hour for labour even though the current agreement states $130 per hour.”
Brampton’s parts storage rooms, the audit found, are also “not properly restricted,” increasing the risk of unauthorized entry and theft. “Our review of physical access found that many individuals have security badge access to the parts storage rooms that do not need it. These individuals mostly include employees from other departments, as well as former Fleet Maintenance employees, temporary card holders and outside cleaners.”
Internal Audit has compiled an action plan for each of its non-compliant findings, to “improve preventative maintenance processes, reinforce the importance of daily vehicle inspections and compliance with Provincial requirements, enhance oversight over purchasing activity, and strengthen fleet maintenance activities.”
Critics of Brown have warned that his severe cuts to the City budget and cancellation of financial practices that used to track current and projected spending in the future have left taxpayers in the dark about how their money is being spent, whether services are being properly funded and how City Hall plans to meet the needs of a growing municipality.
Recent audit work has exposed the impacts of Brown’s disturbing decisions to curtail spending and his refusal to use common, transparent practices to track contracts, spending, the use of reserve accounts and produce budget documents that are supposed to show taxpayers whether or not elected officials are running the City properly.
Shortly after Brown became mayor in 2018 he gutted the budget process, removed previous reporting to the public and eliminated the capital budget planning process used by almost all municipalities to show exactly what taxpayer dollars will be spent on and where they are needed most.
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