Frank Klees

Presto Statement

February 14, 2012

 

Ontario PC Transportation Critic Frank Klees will hold a media availability to discuss issues surrounding the TTC and the tendering of the Presto card fare system.

When we raised questions in the legislature concerning Ornge and the potential waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars, the Premier, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance brushed those warnings aside and insisted all was well.

We now know that ignoring those warnings allowed millions more of taxpayers' dollars to be wasted, and given the irresponsible decisions by Ornge management  on everything from equipment purchases to changes in launch protocol, that failure to respond has also compromised the delivery of essential air ambulance services.

Today, I want to draw attention to yet another example of the McGuinty government ignoring our warning that another scandal is brewing - this time at the Ministry of Transportation and its rapidly-expanding agency Metrolinx.

On November 22nd of last year, a letter was delivered to the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation in which they were advised of concerns relating to the awarding of a contract to implement an electronic fare card system on the TTC under very questionable circumstances. 

Specifically, the letter questioned why the Ministry of Transportation, through its agency Metrolinx, was coercing the city of Toronto and the TTC to enter into an agreement with the Presto/Accenture consortium at a cost of more than $300 million higher than a competing bid.

The letter pointed out that the competing bid from ACS Xerox,  had gone through an open, public tendering process, was in compliance with all specifications set out in the TTC's tender document and would save  taxpayers more than $300 million in capital costs alone.

In addition,  the ACS 'open payment system' would accept credit and debit cards rather than restrict commuters to the Presto card, a single, restricted card system based on outdated technology.

On December 7th, I again raised the issue, by way of a question directed to the Premier during Question Period. I referred to the November letter and specifically asked why the Ministry of Transportation, was forcing the TTC into a deal with the Presto/Accenture consortium.

I again pointed out that the TTC had made its intentions known to proceed with the ACS/Xerox proposal. Not only would it save more than $300 million in capital costs but there would be an additional savings of $16 million in annual operating costs over the term of the 10 year contract bringing the total savings to taxpayers to almost half a billion dollars.

That question was again brushed aside with a glib assurance that all was well.

We contend that all is NOT well and the more questions we ask, the more concerned we become that we have yet one more example of the McGuinty government refusing to act on what we see as blatant evidence of waste and mismanagement.

It has now been confirmed that the Ministry of Transportation is not only strong-arming the TTC by offering to pay the more than $300 million in capital costs to implement the Presto card system, but has also threatened to withhold other infrastructure funding, including gas tax revenue, if it didn't cooperate.

I’ve been told by TTC Commissioners and Councillors that they consider this nothing short of political blackmail.

At a time when the government is facing serious fiscal challenges, and is looking to Don Drummond to help them find efficiencies and savings in the delivery of government services, we find it disturbing that this same government is turning a blind eye to the blatant waste of almost half a billion of taxpayers' dollars.

We're also disappointed that the TTC have allowed themselves to become complicit in such a blatant waste of tax dollars. 

The more questions we ask, the more disturbing this file becomes. Here are some of the questions that the Minister of Transportation and the TTC Commissioner have a responsibility to answer:

First, why, after an extensive public tendering process by the TTC for an electronic fare card system, were the results of that process overturned by the Ministry of Transportation with a directive from Metrolinx to the TTC that it must deal with the Presto/Accenture consortium to implement its fare card system ?

Second, why did the Ministry of Transportation, through Metrolinx offer to pay the more than $300 million of capital costs to implement the Presto card system, when the  competing ACS/Xerox proposal would save taxpayers that $300 million ?

Third, given the fact that the ACS/Xerox proposal was the TTC's preferred option, was publicly- tendered, was fully compliant with all conditions of the tender document, is based on a state of the art, open payment system technology, would the Ministry of Transportation insist on spending that additional half a billion dollars for an inferior product ?

Fourth, why did the TTC so readily comply with this coercion ?

Fifth, who are the players behind the scenes at Presto/Accenture, Metrolinx, the Ministry of Transportation who have been orchestrating this deal and who stands to gain from this half billion dollar over-payment ?

Sixth, Presto/Accenture are promising a "Next Generation" system that will do what the ACS/Xerox system can do today. How many more millions will it take in development costs to re-invent that technology and why would that even be
considered ?

Finally, How much does this e-transit card file have in common with the e-health file that ended up costing taxpayers more than a billion dollars?

We believe the taxpayers of this province deserve answers to these questions and we're calling on the Minister of Transportation to help us get those answers rather than continue to defend the indefensible.