News / Edmonton

Edmonton Sand recycling program fails to measure up

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson furious that council was given false information.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.

Metro File

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.

An audit released Thursday shows a much celebrated sand-recycling program can't back up the savings it claims — despite repeated claims for over a decade from city staff.

Auditor David Wiun released a scathing report on the sand recycling program Thursday, detailing that evidence does not support the former claims the program saves the city $2.5 million a year — all despite what council has been repeatedly told by its own officials.

“I’m furious,” Iveson said, after the council meeting. “Clearly, there was a failure with accountability, oversight and project management.”

Iveson said council should have been told the truth.

“I’m furious to find out that as a governor I was given information that was not actually accurate or provable,” he said. “If those people still worked here, they would stop working here right away.”

The city didn't have details on when the employees left and under what circumstances.

The sand-recycling contract between the city and the Waste Management Centre of Excellence started in 2005.

The centre is a non-profit company with several members including the city, Alberta Innovates, EPCOR, the University of Alberta and NAIT.

The centre agreed to collect, clean and process sand from city sweepers in the spring and deliver it to road crews in the fall.

Between 2005 and 2015, the city paid the centre $37 million for these services. The idea was that by re-using the sand the city would be saving funds and keeping sand out of landfills.

But Wiun found those savings weren’t being effectively tracked.

“Had management been evaluating the costs of the program, monitoring the changing variables and comparing these costs to viable alternatives on a regular basis, they would have identified the risk,” he wrote, in the report.

Wiun concluded that depending on a variety of factors, the program might have been saving the city as much as $3 million per year, but it could also have been costing the city $1.3 million more than simply buying new sand.

City manager Linda Cochrane said the environmental aspects of the idea were solid, but the city obviously failed on accountability.

“From an innovation standpoint it was a very good idea,” she said. “What we didn’t do well and did very poorly in fact was the contract management.”

Cochrane said she believes recent changes in the city administration that require better contracts would have caught this problem today, but that doesn’t excuse failures of the past.

“I’m not happy at all and neither is the rest of the corporate leadership team.”