The Voice of OC has a blockbuster story today from an auditor who declined to submit a bid to conduct the Great Park Foresnic Audit on the grounds that the project was not independent and was designed to lead to a biased conclusion. We’ve been saying all along, this audit was a taxpayer-funded withhunt designed to provide political material for Irvine’s Republican slate which won a narrow victory last November.
From the story:
But the April 18, 2013 letter from Kim Onisko, which was obtained by Voice of OC, represents the first time that an ostensibly independent player in the drama has come forward to claim potential bias.
“I couldn’t point to any one thing, it was just my sense of smell,” said Onisko, of Long Beach-based Onisko & Scholz, in a recent interview with Voice of OC. “My sense that it was going to become a major political issue… I didn’t feel that I would be able to be independent.”
In 2012, Onisko conducted an audit of the park that found no “significant or material findings.” Onisko said past audits have encountered “natural friction” between “competing stakeholders.”
Without a set of procedures mutually agreed upon by those involved and under consulting standards of the American Institute of CPAs, the auditor “would find it difficult, if not impossible, to render an objective opinion,” the letter states.
The City’s public information office offered this explanation to TheLiberalOC to counter the Voice of OC story:
- The City had a good numerical response to the RFP; there were five qualified proposals submitted. (An RFP is posted on the City’s website where numerous firms receive notification, and the only way to know who declined and for what reason would be if those firms contacted the City.)
- There was no response to the Onisko letter as it is not customary for staff to respond to such letters.
- Two months before Onisko’s letter that suggests that a CPA firm assist in the RFP, City staff had contracted with a CPA firm to assist with the development of the scope of services for the RFP.
- The City Council took the RFP under consideration as an agenda item and approved the RFP, including the scope of services for issuance.
- Although Onisko may not have agreed with the City’s scope of services as set forth in the RFP document, staff followed all appropriate procedures in conducting the formal RFP solicitation process. That included using a CPA firm to provide guidance with scope of services development and receiving approval from the City Council prior to the RFP issuance.
From the VOC story:
Christina Shea, a Republican councilwoman, said she found the letter “very odd” because consultants rarely criticize the government agency when they decline to bid. She questioned whether the auditor had relationships with someone involved, like a former Great Park board member.
“If [Onisko] didn’t have the tenacity or the wherewithal to be independent and not political, then I’m very glad we did not ever use him,” Shea said. “For a CPA firm to make a statement like that… I find that very unprofessional.”
Onisko said he didn’t have relationships with any of the consultants who had done work on the park project. He said he wrote the letter because he recalled the city asking those who decided not to bid to explain why not.
I’m always amused when Shea declares something unprofessional; sort of like threatening her political critics with lawsuits for sharing emails she believed to be confidential. Reem denied the city asked for feedback from auditors, but it’s certainly possible someone else from the city asked Onisko for that information.
“The City of Irvine has spent more than $1.5 million and nearly two years on an investigation of the Great Park that has not produced any tangible, evidence-based results. In addition to many problems with the so-called audit – lack of transparency, refusal to publicly release information, political motivations – this new information proves that it was biased from the beginning,” said Paul Najar of Gafcon. “Despite receiving these concerns from a well-known and reputable auditing firm, the City of Irvine moved forward with the flawed RFP, leading to the issue of today – millions of dollars spent, no credible evidence and the good reputation of the many consultants involved with the Park skewered.”
Of course the audit is biased and not at all transparent. Auditors and lawyers in the case report directly to a two person committee of Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway and Shea who make decisions on the process of the investigation without a vote of the council. Hardly transparent.
The final report is to be released in March and the estimate of the final cost of likely $1.5 million — way over the original $240K it was supposed to cost and be finished within six months.