The BC government claims it “found significant savings” following a performance
audit review of TransLink conducted by the provincial Ministry of Finance. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Mary Polak says,
“As we conducted the audit, we told TransLink about many of the efficiencies we were finding… a total of $98 million in savings. The completed audit… found a further $41 million, bringing the total potential savings to $139 million per year.
I think internal performance reviews of public services should be stringent, routine and non-political. Based on the minister’s statements, this one is not any of those things. Her release demonstrates it is partisan political rubbish.
Polak takes credit for unspecified “savings” already gained and claims to be advising TransLink of another $41 million in savings. Shall we examine the latest items:
- $6.3m by service reductions;
- $1.5m by reversing the contracting-out of IT and engineering services;
- $3.0m by eliminating sinking funds, which are reserves for debt repayment;
- $30.0m by eliminating surpluses through less conservative approaches to budgeting.
80% of these savings are not savings at all. They are instructing TransLink to employ budget tricks that BC Liberals find convenient but even the unschooled recognize that savings are gained by lowering actual expenditures, not by phoney cuts to projected spending. We should complain about TransLink’s extravagance, in procurement policies and in executive compensation for example, but not about conservative budget making.
Sinking funds are merely reserves put aside to ensure that cash is on hand to repay debts when they become due. Sort of like holding next month’s mortgage payment in a savings account to ensure its availability when the amount must be paid.
Interesting to see BC Liberals admitting that money can be saved by directly hiring people to provide administrative and technical services. I wonder if the province is prepared to apply that strategy throughout government. BC Liberals spend tens of millions to employ loyal friends as consultants and double dipping contractors. Where are you now Ken Dobell? I suppose it really depends on whose palms are being greased.
The Finance Ministry team states that TransLlink can save a further $6.3 million through service reductions, although they describe the reductions with less plain language: “costs saving opportunities exist in areas such as low performing routes and driver scheduling.” So, TransLink users, you get fewer buses or buses without drivers. Take your pick.
An organization serving a large and diverse customer base has unique challenges and this government report actually finds that TransLink is performing quite well. Perhaps the greatest proof is this:
“Throughout the review the Steering Committee observed an overarching emphasis by TransLink in its business decisions and culture to focus on customer service.”