Friday, 14 September 2007

Halifax: Games bid details to be released after all

From the Chronicle (Halifax):

Games bid details will be released after all

Decision frees previously confidential information


What a difference a week makes.

Taxpayers will get crucial information about Halifax’s defunct Commonwealth Games bid after all, regional council heard Tuesday.

The city’s chief administrative officer told councillors that after seeking legal opinions, the province and Halifax Regional Municipality will be disclosing details of the proposal for the 2014 Games such as all travel costs, consulting fees, organizational charts, job descriptions and costs of events.

"The bottom line is we are prepared . . . to release as much information as legally possible," Dan English told the politicians.

He said members of the public or media representatives will not have to go through freedom-of-information channels to get previously confidential information about the bid. The material has been kept under wraps since Canada’s bid was killed six months ago.
Last week, an information report for regional council indicated that details about the proposal, which died in March when the city and province pulled the plug due to the Games’ $1.7-billion price tag, would only be accessible to the major organizations involved in the bidding process.

Councillors didn’t debate the bid information issue Tuesday but plan to do so next week.
Mr. English said neither the municipality nor the provincial government will be forcing people to file freedom-of-information requests, unless a request for bid details is "unreasonable" because it requires a great amount of time and staff resources.

He said the province and city hall must abide by privacy legislation that may prevent some information from being disclosed by either party.

"We’ll pull some information together and provide it back to council," Mr. English said. "These will be routine releases. We won’t wait for somebody to ask; we’ll provide it."

Mr. English said the Halifax 2014 organizing committee is still a legal entity. Once it surrenders its certificate of incorporation on Nov. 1, he said, it officially ceases to exist.

The organizing committee has to appoint a liquidator to handle any outstanding financial matters, Mr. English told reporters. He said the city "is not anticipating any problems" during that transitional period.

Mr. English, the city’s top bureaucrat in the Halifax 2014 group, said the municipality doesn’t have its own copies of fiscal details of the bid. He said the city will be "acquiring the services of someone" to go into the committee’s Dartmouth office "and assemble a higher level of detail . . . as it relates to the financial statements."

A municipal staff report presented to regional council says organizing the documents "into a comprehensive inventoried package prior to its availability will ensure ease of access and timely responses to . . . requests for specific information."

The cost of the Commonwealth Games and the secrecy related to Canada’s bid were probably the most controversial elements of the proposal. Bid committee members had always refused to provide a factual price tag, saying they didn’t want their competitors to take advantage of the disclosure.

Games opponents often complained the Olympic-style event in Halifax, which is now a two-way contest between Glasgow, Scotland, and Abuja, Nigeria, would probably cost more than $1 billion. In December 2005, when metro beat its domestic rivals for the right to bid internationally for the 2014 Games, the cost was pegged at $500 million.

In February 2006, the cost estimate was between $750 million and $785 million. The cost of preparing the bid was $14.3 million.


’The bottom line is we are prepared . . . to release as much information as legally possible.’Dan EnglishHRM CEO

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