BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
Brandon City Hall in winter.
The Calgary-based technology firm that produces the Bellamy accounting software formerly used by the City of Brandon said on Monday its software was not to blame for the city’s financial reporting woes.
Jim Wilson, the chief executive officer of Sylogist Ltd., claims the accounting software did not crash and that Brandon’s treasury department used the Bellamy system until Dec. 31, 2010, when it switched to the Diamond system now in place.
"Our licensing and support agreement with the city ended on Dec. 31, 2010, and since that licensing agreement ended, the system would not be accessible after that date and the software would not be accessible to be used after that date," Wilson said.
Wilson took exception to claims the city’s troubles with property taxes and utility bills were caused by the Bellamy software.
"That had nothing to do with our system but was a new system installed they were having difficulties with," Wilson said.
"This referred to bills issued after Dec. 31, 2010 and clearly those were available from the Bellamy system. However, there seems to have been significant problems, as we were told as well, switching over to the new system. Whether that related to the software, whether that related to project or whether that related to the date conversion, we don’t know because our agreement ended on Dec. 31, 2010."
Wilson said 70 municipalities from Ontario to Alberta were using the Bellamy accounting software and disputed Decter Hirst’s comments about the situation.
On Friday, she said: "We didn’t have a complete team to get us through that changeover. Couple that with the entire Bellamy financial reporting system failed. It wasn’t that there was no backup file. The system was gone."
Yesterday, city director of communications Allison Collins said Decter Hirst had misspoken while speaking colloquially about the situation and didn’t intend to say that the Bellamy system itself had crashed.
"The City of Brandon wishes to clarify that it did not experience an accounting software and system ‘crash’ while using Bellamy, nor did the entire Bellamy financial reporting system fail, as referenced in an interview with Mayor Shari Decter Hirst in the July 16 Brandon Sun story," Collins wrote in an email to the Sun.
"The Mayor was referring in a general manner to the extreme challenges associated with all that was involved with switching over from its former long-term financial software and system provider (Bellamy) to a new financial system provider (Diamond) in a very short period of time in 2010."
Wilson said Decter Hirst was partially correct, in that the city didn’t have access to the Bellamy system, but it was because their licence to use it had expired. The system was still working and the city’s information was contained in the Bellamy system. He added the Bellamy system could handle the changes required under Manitoba’s new public sector accounting method.
"It behooves the system’s people at the city to have implemented the other system they were switching over to," Wilson said. "We would have been happy to support a transition period if required, but we were in fact told emphatically they were ready to go for Jan. 1. So they did not renew their software agreement with us. It didn’t (crash). Anything involving the 2010 report would have been filed in 2011, after an audit review. That would have been data converted on to the new system."
Wilson added the city would not have been capable of using the Bellamy system to produce property tax bills and utility bills after Dec. 31, 2010 because the city didn’t have a licence to use the software.
The city’s own audit and finance committee report of March 3, 2011 backs up Wilson’s claim. The report states the committee was told to expect the 2010 report to the provincial government to be late, because of "the new Diamond software conversion."
The audit and finance report also states that the 2009 financial statement was going to be late because of the then new guidelines implemented by the Public Sector Accounting Board.
"No municipality in Manitoba filed their 2009 statement on time," the report states.
The 2009 statement was approved at that March 3, 2011 meeting. Jodee Mason, a government spokeswoman, said there are only 13 municipalities that have not reported both their 2009 and 2010 statements out of a total of 197 municipalities in the province. Currently, 45 municipalities are late filing some of their financial statements to the Department of Local Government.
To assist with the transition to public sector accounting, the provincial government teamed up with the Association of Manitoba Municipalities in 2006 and "provided resources and education to assist municipalities to prepare for this requirement," Mason said.
However, in that time two of Brandon’s treasurers and an assistant treasurer had resigned. Dean Hammond is the third city treasurer since 2006.
» email@example.com, with files from Matt Goerzen
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 17, 2012