` Columbia Journal- ACCENT-URE ON BC HYDRO
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by Jim Lipkovits

a bad deal for taxpayers

It appears that the BC government has run into a major obstacle in the first stages of privatizing BC Hydro. Despite denials, BC's Liberal government continues the drive to privatize the prime publicly owned BC Hydro crown corporation. As a first step they have split off the most of the administrative arm of the public utility to the private firm Accenture. At the time, Premier Gordon Campbell claimed that this particular company and this particular move would reduce costs and increase efficiency. Now, new evidence provided from the province of Ontrario's Auditor appears to put the lie to his position.

On December 4th, a press release from the BC Citizens for Public Power demanded that the BC government immediately halt negotiations with controversial corporation Accenture to privatize one-third of the operations of BC Hydro after Ontario's Auditor strongly criticized a similar privatization of government services that has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Ontario Auditor Erik Peters called the Accenture contract to overhaul Ontario's social assistance computer system "a bad deal for taxpayers" that jumped to $246 million from an original $180 million. Peters also said the new computer system installed by Accenture is "in many respects" worse than the old one, including "numerous unresolved systems defects."

BC Hydro is currently negotiating the takeover of its computer services, information services and other operations by Accenture.

"The BC government would have to be crazy to negotiate a deal worth hundreds of millions of dollars with Accenture to privatize the computer and information systems of BC Hydro just as Ontario's independent auditor is calling a similar contract a bad deal for taxpayers," says, Rudy Lawrence, a director of BC Citizens for Public Power, a grassroots organization fighting privatization of BC Hydro. "Ontario's Auditor has given BC a clear warning and Gordon Campbell should pay attention," says Lawrence, who is also president of the Council Of Senior Citizens' Organizations.

Hydro negotiations should be suspended right away, says Jim Sinclair, another director of BC Citizens for Public Power and president of the BC Federation of Labour. "The BC government should immediately order BC Hydro to stop negotiations with Accenture before taxpayers are on the hook for an expensive and unnecessary privatization deal -- and a deal that British Columbians already oppose," Sinclair said. "What's more, why would we risk giving BC Hydro's computer operations to a corporation with a track record like Accenture's in Ontario."

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