Councilors had pointed questions for city staffers overseeing a decade-long housing software project that has cost London hundreds of thousands of dollars and isn’t being used yet.
“At what point do we stop pouring money into a system that is not live? We’re going to get to a point that, if this does become live, it could very well be obsolete,” Coun. Hadleigh McAllister asked at a council meeting Tuesday.
“I think we would be better off canceling this and … developing something that could actually be implemented in a timely fashion instead of pouring money into software that we haven’t even seen.”
At issue is a $3-million contract for software to manage the administration of social housing — things like wait lists, programs and rent supplement information. Thunder Bay-based Arcori won the bid to develop the software for several municipalities in 2015. London’s share of the fixed cost is just over $224,000.
Right now, Word documents and Excel spread sheets are used to track social housing data.
While other cities appointed staff to stick-handle the development and implementation of the software, London hired Toronto-based consultant Timothy Leung to oversee it here. Leung’s contracts have been renewed every two years since 2015, including the latest in February 2023. That contract expires in 2025 and is costing the city $113,000 per year.
‘good money after bad’
“The software component is a fixed price. The consultant, we are still paying for,” said Matt Feldberg, the city’s current director of municipal housing development.
Fedlberg now says there have been “regular meetings” with Leung. City officials were first alerted to the consulting contract and decade-long software development earlier this spring when CBC News asked about them.
“Are we good at throwing money after this bad point? It’s inappropriate to make that call right now. The report from the staff will answer some of those questions,” said Coun. Steve Lehman.
Leung is providing project management for the software development, Feldberg said.
In an email to CBC News, Leung said the insinuations that he had not provided sufficient services were “unfortunate.”
“The services I provided have been suitable, appropriate, and in accordance with industry standards. There have certainly been program delays and other complexities, the specifics of which I cannot comment on due to the confidentiality and security of the system,” wrote Leung.
“The (software) system has been designed for big and small administrators of housing, and as such, there are varying requirements in order for a system to be deemed ready and be utilized. However, my contract has been consistently renewed, and those working with me on the project have had nothing but positive feedback to share over the tenure of the project.”
The software is “not in alignment” with the city’s technology or project management best practices, Feldberg has said. City council hasn’t been updated about the project since 2014, right after it was launched.
So far, the software has been rolled out in parts in Hamilton and Waterloo, in 2021. In March, London officials told CBC the city would start testing the product later this year. That is now up in the air.
City staff will report back in September about whether the project can be salvaged, and exactly how much public money has been spent on it.