Thought Leadership

Ontario Report Shines Light on Value of Independent Oversight for Darlington Refurbishment

Category: Industry News
Eric Gould • February 11, 2019

In December, the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario published its annual report. It details the auditor’s findings on a number of projects and initiatives supported by Ontarians’ tax dollars.

Included in the 2018 report was Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Darlington Nuclear Refurbishment project. This project is important to Ontario for a couple of reasons. First, OPG is wholly owned by the province, making the company’s performance a matter of concern for all Ontarians. Second, the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station produces more than 15% of Ontario’s electricity.

When we see progress reports about big megaprojects – nuclear or otherwise – the news often isn’t good. They are notoriously plagued by cost overruns, schedule delays and other mismanagement issues.

This report was different. Currently, OPG is still forecasting that it will meet time and cost estimates from 2016. In the report, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk praises OPG for applying lessons learned from previous project work and – critically – for establishing oversight to help keep the project on track toward those targets. In a press release, she describes the project as being “diligently monitored.”

As noted in the report, there are a number of groups both external and internal to OPG that are participating in project oversight of Darlington. Modus Strategic Solutions is part of an external advisory group that supports OPG’s board of directors in this role.

In our work with this group, we help to monitor the progress of the project and regularly report on potential risks. We do so with an approach that we like to think of as collaborative oversight, working shoulder-to-shoulder with the management team as well as the frontline workers. Embedded within the organization, we’re able to serve not as outsiders there to criticize, but as a bridge to accurate information and solid decision-making. This role contributes to the accountability structure that drew the auditor’s attention.

“A clear accountability structure is in place to ensure that staff and contractors working on the Project deliver services in adherence to contract terms and legislated safety and environmental standards and that their performance is monitored and appropriately addressed in a timely manner. Project timelines and costs are being managed, monitored and publicly reported on a regular basis and corrective actions are being taken when issues arise,” the report said.

Of course, the report also lays out challenges for the project that will still need to be addressed. Much more work lies ahead, and the risks outlined in the report are very real. Ongoing diligence is required if this project is to be completed successfully.

Independent oversight will continue to play a key role in identifying risks and helping to avoid them. Presented with timely, accurate information, OPG can continue to make prudent decisions and move toward delivering this project on time and on budget.