Report: Coderre administration had ‘no vision’ of Formula E race risks, says auditor general

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The Denis Coderre administration had absolutely “no overall vision” of the challenges and the risks involved in the management of last year’s Formula E electric car race, concludes the City of Montreal’s auditor general, Michèle Galipeau.

Galipeau was the latest to lambaste the former mayor and his administration for the management of the race, suggesting it was doomed before it even left the starting gate.

“No business case was presented to authorities, no roles or responsibilities were defined,” Galipeau said in her annual report, tabled Monday at city hall.

Her report comes less than a month after the city’s inspector general, Denis Gallant, took Coderre to task for ignoring the advice of the city’s own lawyers and circumventing rules to pull off the doomed race.

Galipeau’s blistering report found that policies adopted in 2010 for running large-scale city projects that exceed $10 million were ignored, the project manager responsible for running the event was hired without a tender, and the city did not keep track of expenses related to the event.

Nearly 35,000 tickets given away

The report said even after the race was over, organizers underestimated the number of tickets sold.

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Just days before last November’s election, Montreal it’s electric, the agency created to manage the event, said 25,000 tickets had been sold to the public or to sponsors and some 20,000 were given away.

The report reveals that in fact, according to results dating back to Sept. 30, 2017, 13,646 tickets were sold and 34,730 were given away.

Former Mayor Denis Coderre, third from left, poses with Formula E organizers including Evenko CEO Geoff Molson, far right at an event promoting the race in 2017.

A year before the race, in November 2016, organizers had projected more than 45,000 tickets would bring in $4.9 million in revenue. 

Actual ticket sales generated $700,000 in revenue. Other sources of revenue such as sponsorships were also exaggerated, the report finds, bringing in $2.7 million, compared to the $5.7 million originally budgeted.

In the end, after Montreal it’s electric attracted only a fraction of the grants it had been counting on, Galipeau found that Formule E cost the the City of Montreal $26 million.

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Coderre ‘obsessed’ by Formula E, says Plante

Formula E was Coderre’s “pet project,” and he had been “so obsessed” by it that he decided to keep to himself everything he knew about how it was going, according to his successor in the mayor’s post, Valèrie Plante.

“He was so passionate and determined to make it happen that he would just [put] all the concerns — all the good practices — aside,” said Plante at a news conference Monday. 

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said the Formula E race had been Denis Coderre’s ‘pet project’ and his obsession. She has cancelled future races, exposing herself and the city to a $33-million lawsuit from Formula E organizers. (CBC)

In one of her first moves after her election, last December Plante cancelled this year’s race, concerned it was going to cost taxpayers another $35 million.

Montreal it’s electric and Formula E Operations Limited, the company that runs the electric car racing circuit, are suing the City of Montreal and Plante for $33 million in damages.

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In a suit filed on June 14 in Quebec superior Court, the plaintiffs claim the non-profit set up to organize the local event was forced to breach its obligations as a result of Plante’s decision to cancel future editions of the race.

Plante didn’t discuss the lawsuit Monday, only saying the city is eager to move forward and learn from the Formula E fiasco.

“I always try to see the positive side of things,” she said. “Let’s just take all the lessons, read carefully everything, making sure we follow the governance process, making sure that we have business plans when we want to make big events.”

The city’s opposition leader, Lionel Perez, who was a member of Coderre’s executive committee, had no comment on the auditor general’s report on Monday. 

Coderre could not be reached for comment. However, when the inspector general’s report was released in May, the former mayor said he didn’t think he had done anything wrong, and he still thought the race had been a good idea.

 

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