|What is photo radar really costing?|
Taxpayers will probably never know the whole answer...
A June 21, 1996, Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MOTH) press release (File No. 182A/96) states:"The following are preliminary cost estimates for photo radar:"A Ministry of Finance internal "Question and Answer" document for their media relations staff obtained by The Vancouver Sun through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request states:
- "Costs to date total $12 million, which include direct project costs, such as the ATS Canada expenditure and overhead at MVB and ICBC."
- "The estimated cost in 1996/97 to operate the program under the manual system is $8.6 million. This is comparable with the projected costs for an automated system.""Total capital and operating costs associated with the Photo-Radar program are anticipated to be $35.4 million in 1996/97. Of this amount, $13.3 million is funded within the Ministry of Attorney General for police and court costs associated with the program. The balance, $22.1 million was budgeted for vans, cameras, computer systems and equipment and program operating costs. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia will be a major beneficiary of the program through reduced accident claims, and as a result has assumed responsibility for funding this portion of the Photo-Radar program."An audit of the Traffic Safety Initiative released March 20, 1997, states that original Treasury Board approved Development Costs were $9,172,000, but that Estimated Costs to Complete had increased three-fold to $30,930,000. Overall TSI program figures (including photo radar) were originally $31,661,000, but then projected to be $62,247,000 to complete.
"Revenue assumptions for 1996/97 of $65 million were based upon a starting date of July 1, 1996. The program was intended to ramp-up for the first 3 months and be fully operational by October 1, 1996."
It should be noted that advertising costs ("Speed is Killing Us") are not included in the above figures, but has previously been projected to be around $8 million.
Figures obtained through FOI in 1998 indicate some more recent costing:
Confused? so are we!
- "Development costs to the end of 1997 total $29.9 million"
- "Additional development costs of $3.0 million are budgeted in 1998 for program expansion."
- "Processing costs" (not including capital costs, maintenance, police and court costs, etc.):
- 1996 $1.235 million (Actual)
- 1997 $6.802 million (Actual)
- 1998 $8.011 million (Projected)
- "The police costs projected for 1997/98 for members [police officers] assigned to photo radar..."
- 1997/1998 $7,681,276 (Actual)
- 1998/1999 $9.6 million (from Hansard)
- 1999/2000 $10.74 million (from Hansard)
- Courts, justices of the peace, prosecution, process serving, maintenance, advertising, etc., are not included in the above figures.
- "Payments to ATS [American Traffic Systems] for photo radar ... $15,222,949.82" to 97/03/05. These are payments from the government.
- Payments to ATS for photo radar from ICBC... $3,235,545.91 to 98/05/29 (information requested May 29, 1998, not released until January 5, 1999).
|Photo radar Contract 1|
Freedom of information does not exist in BC. After almost two years of stalling, the provincial government continues to refuse to release any useful information about the photo radar contracts with American Traffic Systems (ATS). While we understand that limited portions may be harmful to the business interests of ATS, or that some data is sensitive for police purposes -- to date the taxpayers have seen less than 4% of the substance of the first BC photo radar contract, and only slightly more of the second. Few useful facts or figures on costs or obligations have been made available.
Why is it not being released? A few possibilities come to mind:
The following is a chronology of events surrounding the attempt to get public access to the first contract:
- The government negotiators were incompetent and don't want the public to discover this.
- The politicians are incompetent because they interfered with the negotiators and then signed a bad contract.
- There were payouts to 'friends and insiders'.
- The money is being paid into a Cayman Islands bank account!
- The taxpayers are going to get screwed and the government doesn't want you to know about it!
- September 14, 1995
The Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MOTH) announces in a press release (File No. 210/95):"The B.C. government has begun detailed negotiations with American Traffic Systems Canada Ltd. to equip police around B.C. with up to 30 speed-monitoring cameras..."
"Each of the leading suppliers' mobile units, van included, is expected to cost between $80,000 and $100,000."
- December 14, 1995
Date of contract.
- December 21, 1995 [0 days]
Reform BC requests a copy of the ATS photo radar contract under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).
- January 29, 1996
SENSE also requests a copy of the ATS photo radar contract under FOI.
- February 26, 1996 [67 days]
Reform BC and SENSE are separately informed that the contract will be forthcoming and that this will cost each up to $467.00 for the 1,508 page contract.
- February 27, 1996
SENSE requests that the government waive the fee as the information is a matter of the public interest under Section 75(5)(b) of the Act.
- March 14, 1996 [84 days]
After 84 days, the Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MOTH) releases 384 of 1284 pages (30%) of the contract to Reform BC with a bill for $156.00. Of the 384 pages released, 343 (89%) are useless generic computer programming standards. Of the remaining 41 pages (4% of the substance of the contract), all useful information is removed.
- March 18, 1996
The Ministry refuses to waive the fees, and SENSE decides to drop the FOI request due to the costs. Reform BC and SENSE (on an embargo basis) agree to work together to analyze the contact.
- May 2, 1996
Reform BC leader Jack Weisgerber releases copies of the contract to the BC news media during an election-campaign press conference.
- There is currently no active FOI on the substantial un-released remainder of the first contract.
Photo radar Contract 2A record of SENSE's attempts to get the entire second photo radar contract relased...
- September 17, 1996
The Ministry of Transportation and Highways (MOTH) announces in a press release (File No. 233/96):"[Transportation and Highways Minister Lois] Boone also announced the government has concluded negotiations with ATS Canada to complete the development of an automated system that generates photo radar tickets."
"The ministry had suspended work with ATS Canada in May when the system was unable to demonstrate the accuracy required to do the job. Since then, the ministry and ATS Canada have reached an agreement on retesting the photo radar system and anticipate full automation early in 1997. The final contract is worth $14.7 million and includes a perpetual licence for the provincial government to operate the software."
- September 18, 1996 [0 days]
SENSE requests a copy of the new contract.
- September 19, 1996 [1 day]
SENSE receives a letter from the MOTH confirming receipt of request on September 18, 1996, and stating that we will receive a response within the required 30 days.
- October 10, 1996 [22 days]
SENSE receives a letter from MOTH advising that the request will need to be reviewed by the Information and Technology Access Office (ITAO) of the Ministry of Finance, that the deadline will be extended by 30 days, and that we will receive a response by November 18 or sooner.
- November 19, 1996 [62 days]
SENSE receives a letter from MOTH advising that the review by ITAO is taking longer than expected, and because of the merger between ICBC and the Motor Vehicle Branch (MVB), the request is being transferred to ICBC. In addition, a 14 day extension was granted by the Office of Information and Privacy Commissioner (OPIC), and that we will receive a response by December 2. At this time, there is no indication that ATS has even been notified about the request (the contract pages released will need to be approved by them).
- December 2, 1996 [75 days]
MOTH releases the contact (30 pages) and 4 of 24 schedules. Although this contract is not as heavily censored as the first contact, there is very little useful information remaining, and no new cost figures included. Notably, one of the schedules containing volume capacities has had all the figures whited-out, but one can see that "images per year" is either 2,xxx,xxx or 3,xxx,xxx confirming SENSE predictions that ticket volumes may increase dramatically in the near future.
- December 3, 1996 [76 days]
Because of the merger between ICBC and MOTH, the FOI request is split and the majority is transferred to ICBC. MOTH retains Article-12 "Patent Indemnity" and Schedule-N "System Volume Assumption".
- December 11, 1996 [84 days]
SENSE appeals the severing of the MOTH portion of the contract to OPIC.
- January 2, 1997 [106 days]
ICBC extends its first 30 day period (from December 3, 1996) by another 30 days.
- January 23, 1997 [127 days]
ICBC informs SENSE that it has applied to the Commissioner and received an extension to April 2.
- February 17, 1997 [152 days]
SENSE signs a "Consent to Extend" agreement with the Commissioner's office for the MOTH portion of the contract.
- February 18, 1997 [153 days]
MOTH advises that it will release Schedule-N "System Volume Assumption" subject to approval by ATS.
- February 21, 1997 [156 days]
OPIC confirms a discussion with SENSE that SENSE will not seek release of Article-12 "Patent Indemnity", but that Schedule-N "System Volume Assumption" should be released.
- February 28, 1997 [163 days]
MOTH finally releases Schedule-N "System Volume Assumption" (1 page) containing the following "sensitive" information:
- Image Capture
- 30 cameras deployed
- 360 operating days per year
- 30 operating days per month
- 2,860,000 images per year (based on 1.6 million notices and reflecting a maximum error rate of 44%)
- 265 images on average per camera per day
- ITCU Processing
- 1.6 million notices produced per year
- 60% of notices become violations - 960,000 per year [33.6% of photographs become tickets]
- 8% of notices are disputed - 128,000 per year
- March 12, 1997 [175 days]
ICBC advises that ATS has been notified of SENSE's request and that ATS has 20 days to make a submission, and that ICBC then has 30 days to make a decision on release of the remaining contract.
- March 27, 1997 [190 days]
ICBC advises that they will not meet their April 2, 1997 deadline, but that a response should now be expected by end of April.
- April 7, 1997 [201 days]
ICBC releases schedules D ["Milestones", 1 page], P ["Key personnel", 1 page], and Q ["Subcontractors List", 1 page].
- June 4, 1998 [xxx days]
Letter from Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner informing SENSE that ATS Canada has requested a review by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia of ICBC's proposed disclosure of records, to be completed by September 2, 1998.
- August 12, 1998 [xxx days]
E-mail from Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner informing SENSE that due to the volume of material to review (> 1300 pages), the OIPC has requested that the expiry date be extended to October 2, 1998.
- October 2, 1998 [xxx days]
SENSE signs a "Consent to Extend" agreement to allow the Province and ATS to continue negotiating the release of documents.
- October 30, 1998 [xxx days]
Approximately 300 pages released -- many are blank or blacked-out. Very little useful information remains, and no overall cost figures are contained within.