Monday, August 9, 2010

Don't mess with Texas

Cowtown Charters of Fort Worth, Texas is one of the "myriad" companies owed money for providing people and vehicles to Vancouver's Olympic Bus Network. President Bill Pippin says his company is owed $135,000, but can't be paid until VANOC pays its bus systems contractor Gameday Management. That doesn't look like it'll happen any time soon, because the sides are at an impasse in talks to reconcile accounts.

First, the Aug. 6, 2010, Statement from Terry Wright, Executive Vice President, Services and Operations, VANOC re: payment for 2010 Games Bus Services

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) provides the following information in response to assertions and allegations that have been made through correspondence and to the media relating to bus services at the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Until now, we have trusted that our contractor, Gameday Management Group Canada Inc. would resolve claims with its contracted companies for the provision of buses and drivers. However, it seems apparent that the bus industry believes that unpaid invoices are VANOC’s responsibility, therefore we must respond.

In summary, we regret that bus suppliers have encountered financial hardship however their disappointment, frustration and payment demand should not be directed to VANOC.

We trust the following outlines and clarifies our position and we would respectfully request all those with outstanding bus services claims’ cooperation in directing their further communications to Gameday.

**VANOC declines comment on the quality of Games time bus service except to note that the suggestion that the transportation system was an unqualified success is a superficial analysis without knowledge of all of the facts.

Pre-Games Background:

VANOC engaged Gameday to procure and manage the 2010 Games bus system. Gameday’s responsibility was to assist with system design, to contract with bus companies for buses and drivers, allocate buses to Games transportation systems and manage the commissioning of the buses, the dispatch of buses to allocated routes, the scheduling of drivers and the decommissioning of the buses following the service period. Gameday was not acting on VANOC’s behalf but rather assumed the full outsourcing of these Games operations. In return, VANOC committed to paying Gameday a significant management fee. When Gameday entered into a contract with a third party bus provider, it was obligated to advise VANOC of the total cost associated with the services procured, and VANOC approved installment payments to Gameday that would keep Gameday whole for the costs of approved third party services.

During the period prior to the Games, Gameday informed VANOC of the costs associated with all of their contracted services. VANOC’s contractual entitlement to Gameday was established by the provision of this information by Gameday and its approval for payment by VANOC.

Post Games Background:

Following the Games, the process commenced of reconciling VANOC’s final payment obligations to Gameday with Gameday’s final payment obligations to their bus suppliers. Gameday’s claimed costs in relation to their bus provider contracts far exceeded what had been approved by VANOC, and VANOC determined that most of the increased costs were due to billing errors, unapproved and/or un-communicated charges and charges that VANOC had specifically disapproved. VANOC communicated to Gameday that Gameday would be responsible (out of their considerable management fee) for satisfying committed payments to bus providers that had not been approved by and/or communicated to VANOC.

VANOC Paid All Undisputed/Approved Claims to Canadian and US Bus Companies:

VANOC was not and is not a party to the individual bus provider contracts and accepts no responsibility for Gameday’s supplier arrangements to the extent they were not approved by VANOC as part of its contractual arrangement with Gameday. Nonetheless, VANOC has worked tirelessly with Gameday over the past several months to resolve as many billing discrepancies as possible. In addition to the absence of change orders or approval documentation, a lack of detailed Gameday records (or any records in some instances) have made this a very complicated and frustrating process, but VANOC has considered all Gameday claims in good faith. In many cases, VANOC has paid amounts to Gameday or directly to bus providers (as directed by Gameday) despite the absence of any change order or other evidence that payment for the applicable services were approved by VANOC or that such services were even delivered by Gameday.
VANOC has paid ALL undisputed amounts relating to the provision of services by Canadian and US bus companies to Gameday.

The suggestion that VANOC continues to hold back funds in relation to undisputed accounts is simply false. VANOC had also paid 87.5% of the value of each approved contract sum by January 2010. Importantly, to our knowledge, Gameday only paid 75% of the contract sums to the bus suppliers prior to the Games meaning that 50% of the amount of the bus supplier holdback was in Gameday’s possession prior to the Games. A considerable amount of the US supplier money is also being held by Canada
Revenue Agency in respect of non-resident witholding taxes. VANOC doesn’t know if Gameday has forwarded to the bus suppliers the 12.5% payment that it has been holding since January, nor whether they have forwarded to the bus suppliers the more recent payment by VANOC of the undisputed balance for the bus supplier services. If Gameday has continued to hold these funds pending resolution of its dispute with VANOC, the delay and prejudice and considerable inconvenience
that bus suppliers have been experiencing is clearly attributable to Gameday.

All Outstanding Bus Service Claims Are With Gameday, Not VANOC:

Throughout the period of Gameday’s services, VANOC was advised that only three US-based bus suppliers had been engaged. We have since learned that large portions of the fleets delivered by the three identified carriers were sourced from myriad subcontractors. To the extent any such subcontractor has not been paid, it should look to the company that engaged it for payment, and that entity should in turn look to Gameday to satisfy its claim. VANOC accepts no responsibility to engage in payment discussions with companies with which it has no contractual relationship (and which in many cases were not even known to VANOC until a claim for payment was raised).

Finally, Gameday is capable of satisfying all supplier claims from the management fee committed by VANOC, the majority of which has been paid. Again, we regret that bus suppliers have encountered financial hardship however their disappointment, frustration and payment demand should be directed to Gameday.

Below is Pippin's reaction to a statement issued Aug. 6 by VANOC executive vice-president Terry Wright:

It seems VANOC wants to pretend that the Games did not exist. I was there and personally witnessed the mistreatment and poor management of VANOC. VANOC seems to believe their performance was un-blemished. This is quite wrong.

All the stories are about the money and ignore the other blatant failings of VANOC which caused the need for more transportation. It seems now they are pretending this did not happen. I provided one of those last minute bus additions. I saw the untrained short time college students they hired who had no knowledge of transportation they put in charge at all levels of supervision. These people were ignorant of transportation and basically just stood around. This one critical mistake caused the bus service to under perform.

They would not allow Gameday to bring in seasoned bus people. Oh, that’s right keep the money in Canada. International Trailways put an all call out for help (unpaid) from their organization for volunteers to help fix the problems caused by these untrained workers.

Bus owners and dispatchers rushed to Canada to save the event. Save the event they did despite the incompetence of VANOC (Gameday runs these events all the time).
It seems if they are boxing up or throwing away evidence of their poor performance.

The phone system provided to the drivers did not allow calls outside of network and the cell phone rates made it prohibitive for them to use their own phones effectively making them prisoners. I provided cell phones to my supervisors that allowed me to communicate with them. I spoke with them many times after 7 pm PST to hear of their plight. They always were waiting for VANOC to provide their bus needs for the next day which caused the dispatchers to be late providing schedule times for the drivers. Many had to stay awake waiting for a call that came as little as 30 minutes before their shift transportation. Some had to stand to board a bus 2 hours before their shift and wait (standing) 2 hours after their shift to get back to their domicile. This was because VANOC did not care about safety instead cutting back on transportation to save money.

Canadian hours of service are basically a mirror to US standards with some minor variations. RCMP obviously was instructed to ignore the event and all the violations. Not one of my buses or drivers were stopped and inspected for violations throughout the events.

Shuttle service had to be increased because the drivers did not have enough hours of service to complete their runs (maybe this is some of the extra expense).

No food was provided for the early shift. If you came to work early you got a breakfast coupon and no where to spend it. By the time you got off duty it was almost dinner but not quite. Same situation in reverse at night. No one promised great food but sometimes there was no food. One bottle of water per shift was all VANOC would allow. My contract calls for my drivers to be fed and sheltered each day from the time they left their home base until the time they returned. No food was provided when they had a day off. Most were trapped in their hotel room without any means to find food. Later on some shuttles were provided to allow the drivers to buy food in bulk (maybe some more of the extra expense).

Some of the staging areas were better than others. I had to provide microwaves and refrigerators so my people could eat. International Trailways started providing extra food and water they paid for out of their own pockets. The drivers could not afford to buy food because the prices were boosted to gouge the foreigners. My drivers were told if they deviated from their appointed routes to find food or water or for any other reason they would be apprehended by the RCMP.

As they did throughout the games and are still doing now they are pretending their performance was flawless when in fact they caused all the problems that required extra equipment. They now seem to be saying there is no record of any extra buses ordered during this event.

My contract called for 90% of my funds to be held in escrow. The article you sent clearly admits to this not happening. I am told my contract is a mirror of all upstream of me. VANOC does not mention that the Paralympics bus contracts were not secured until after the Olympics were over.

Where is this money? Tony Vitrano at Gameday is now saying that VANOC wants to only pay for days the buses were in service. This is not what my contract stipulates. No bus owner in their right mind would send buses that far away without a secure revenue stream. There would not have been an Olympics if Bus owners had any inkling how irresponsible VANOC would be in their administration from before the event until this day.

Can anyone believe that a contract could be written that basically states that company “A” will provide uncertain and unlimited services for a fixed price? Of course not! VANOC had a budget for transportation and hired Gameday to provide a certain amount of equipment. Let’s see the contract between VANOC and Gameday. I am told the extra buses ordered have been reimbursed.

What specifically is VANOC talking about that would justify holding back 12.5%? Does Gameday allege they were asked to provide more services than VANOC will acknowledge?  The big mistake everyone made was trying to make up for all of VANOC’s shortcomings. We do this in the bus business. It is called customer service. Most times we do not even get a thank you. In this instance we are being told not only were the efforts not appreciated but actually in some ways did not happen. Basically a swift kick in the butt!

My company sent 13 coaches with 26 drivers 2,400 miles one way to help make the Olympics a success. Gameday has nothing to gain as this is what they do. If bus companies found out that Gameday was acting not in good faith Gameday would be out of business. VANOC is out of business. An easy conclusion can be drawn. Gameday has nothing to gain here except moving on to the next event. VANOC keeps all they steal from the bus companies and gets put back in the general treasury.

A bigger question would be why VANOC paid for the sorry quality of all the food they provided. Oh, sorry they were Canadian companies. VANOC is a public company. Let them prove what they say by showing payments made to Gameday. That would be a little too real wouldn’t it? Could it be possible that there was a 12.5% failure rate that caused money to be withheld to that extreme? Absurd also!  Let the public entity be specific publicly about what the short falls are.

And then there is the CRA. How can they justify keeping our money? Oh, that’s right it stays in the Canadian coffers. We were allowed to file a waiver for moneys paid after the waiver was accepted. Why was the waiver not extended to cover the entire event? Why did VANOC not counsel Gameday that this would be an issue? Oh, that’s right the money stays in Canada. My bus company brings about 2,000 tourists to Canada where they stay for at least a week. Do you know how many of these companies that are unpaid bring tourists to Canada each year? Maybe we should set up our tours to stay in the states?

We jumped through hoops day after day for 4 months prior to the games to send help to Canada to make these games in North America a success. From the beginning they were under staffed, disorganized and under planned making it up as the went.

There were lots of people involved that tried to help but they were ignored. They tried to tell them the problems they would encounter but were ignored. They continued to help up to the point many organizations are in jeopardy including International Trailways, Gameday and many small to medium size bus companies. I guess they think those $500,000 buses don’t have to be paid for. Oh, let’s just keep the money in Canada and scr’ the yanks.

Were you an Olympic Bus Network driver, mechanic or dispatcher? Did you work in depot catering? Tell me your story. Email

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