News / Ottawa

Farmers' markets in a bit of a pickle

After the auditor flagged problems with the management of the Byward and Parkdale markets, the city is looking at a new way of running the two operations.

The auditor found issues with the cash handling process for vendors who pay their rent to the city.

Emma Jackson / Metro

The auditor found issues with the cash handling process for vendors who pay their rent to the city.

There have been problems with cash handling, wild swings in rent payment and a general lack of oversight by the city in its management of the Byward and Parkdale markets, the auditor has found.

The auditor general’s office delivered the troubling assessment of the markets on Thursday, finding a slew of problems with how the markets operate.

“It appears that no accountability had been assigned,” deputy auditor Sonia Brennan told councillors.

She also found the rent for the market’s main building at 55 Byward Market has fluctuated dramatically because of a lease that allows deductions from the rent based on repairs.

This system allowed the tenant to play $211,000 in rent in 2015, but only $1,480 in 2012 because of improvements the tenant had made that year.

The city was warned in 2000 that the lease was too vague, but no changes were made.

The auditor also found that the market’s revenues have been in steady decline for the last five years and that there is a need for a long-term business plan.

The city is looking to transition the markets to an arm’s length municipal corporation and Court Curry, the city’s point person on that plan, says this will help.

“The audit came at a great time for us, we are setting up a new model for the public markets,” he said.

Curry said the issues identified around long-term plans should be addressed with the new corporation, which will come to councillors in February.

He said the issues around cash handling and more immediate problems were handled right away however, because the new market corporation won’t take over until 2018.

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