NS: Stricter rules for contracts urged in HRM legal-department review

Alex Boutilier
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Metro Halifax

The external review, recommended in the wake of auditor general Larry Munroe’s damning report on the concert cash scandal, makes a total of 88 recommendations.

The Black Eyed Peas during their performance on the Halifax Common in 2010.

[HALIFAX, NS] — An external review of the municipality’s legal system recommends tightening rules around approving contracts and reducing the amount of work farmed out to external lawyers.

The review, recommended in the wake of auditor general Larry Munroe’s damning report on the concert cash scandal, makes a total of 88 recommendations on a number of themes.

Revisions to HRM’s contracting policies form one of the meatiest sections, with 18 different recommendations.

The review recommends Legal Services develop a series of “standardized” contract forms “for the various types of contracts and agreements regularly used.”

Municipal departments will be required to consult legal staff only when they believe a contract doesn’t fit the standard forms, or when a contract exceeds $1 million.

Marian Tyson, the acting Legal Services director, said Wednesday she accepts the substance of the recommendations.

“We are in the process of working with the other departments now to put a policy in place around how we can accomplish that,” Tyson said. “We’re going to standardize to the extent (that is) reasonable and possible.”

The review also recommended hiring more staff at Legal Services but recommends their budget not be expanded whatsoever. Instead, the review suggests paying for new lawyers by cutting down on the $600,000 HRM spends on external legal advice a year.

As to whether these reforms would have prevented Mayor Peter Kelly and senior HRM staff from improperly advancing thousands to promoter Harold MacKay, Tyson said: “some of the problems arose because agreements did not come to Legal Services. So putting those processes in place hopefully would ensure that the contracts that should go through Legal Services do so.”

Legal Services approved the contracts between the municipality and MacKay, but Munroe found one contract had been changed after the department signed off on it. Legal services brought up issues relating to the concerts in 2009, but still approved the advances for the Black Eyed Peas and Alan Jackson concerts the following year.

Organizations: Legal Services

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