No criminal wrongdoing in leasing deal: OPP

No charges will be laid as a result of an Ontario Provincial Police investigation launched more than a month ago into possible criminal wrong-doing concerning the leasing of computers to the City of Toronto.

“”There was a specific allegation that money may have been requested or offered to

secure a computer leasing agreement so that was investigated but there was nothing to substantiate anything criminal,”” said Det. Supt. Ross Bingley of the OPP criminal investigation branch in Orillia.

Bingley said four OPP officers worked on the investigation, which consisted primarily of conducting interviews with individuals, but he would not say who was questioned or what that time would represent in terms of cost to the taxpayer.

“”It wasn’t a big ticket item in our world. It’s what we do,”” he said.

The police investigation was announced Sept. 30, the day the Toronto Computer Leasing Inquiry was set to begin, but was delayed pending the findings of the OPP. The inquiry is now scheduled to resume Dec. 2 at the East York Civic Centre in Toronto.

Council voted last winter to go ahead with a public, independent inquiry with an eye to determining why the city paid more than $85 million to Mississauga, Ont. leasing company MFP Financial Services for computers and software contracts originally priced at $43 million. It will also examine why the city acquired $11.3 million worth of Oracle database enterprise software licences.

The president of MFP Financial said Thursday he hopes the inquiry can now get back on track.

“”Once again our name became tangled up in the middle of it, although it wasn’t about us as far as we know. But we’re delighted to see it come to an end and get on with the inquiry once and for all. And that’s where the facts will come out and where, as we’ve said before, we’re absolutely confident we will be completely exonerated,”” said Peter Wolfraim, noting “”there’s been an awful lot of damage done already.””

But Toronto City councilman David Miller said he was surprised to see the outcome of the police investigation. He questioned whether police looked into financial records as well as interviewing individuals as part of the investigation.

“”I think an awful lot of questions should have been asked and I hope they were,”” Miller said. “”The inquiry will get out these facts, I hope.””

Council is not aware of what information the OPP provided to the inquiry commissioner Justice Denise Bellamy, and that has left some members frustrated.

“”The important thing is you have to keep your fingers crossed that Justice Bellamy will get to every detail possible to help the city understand what happened,”” said Bas Balkissoon councillor and audit-committee chairperson.

As of September, about 100 witnesses have been interviewed by the inquiry commission; with at least 35 scheduled to testify at the time of adjournment in September, including Toronto mayor Mel Lastman.

Among those also scheduled to appear before the inquiry are former city chief financial officer Wanda Liczyk and Lana Viinamae, former director of information technology.

City reports indicate some of the leasing deals escalated in price when interest rates went up, and lease terms were extended beyond what had originally been agreed to by council.

The inquiry is expected to take more than 40 days and cost taxpayers in excess of $2 million.

City of Toronto councillors contacted by did not return calls as of press time.

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