Former Hydro Quebec head says utility fought corruption during construction
Published Tuesday, September 9, 2014 12:07PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 10, 2014 10:06AM EDT
Lawyers at the Charbonneau Commission wanted to know about the cozy relationships between engineers, politicians and Hydro-Quebec Tuesday – and they got an earful.
The public utility makes about $12 billion a year and is one of the top construction worksite employers in Quebec.
RSW Inc. engineering company executive Georges Dick was on the stand Tuesday, recalling his relationship with the utility in 2002. The Liberals were in the opposition, so Dick said he was surprised, when top Liberal fundraiser Marc Bibeau paid a visit to his RSW engineering firm, a company that did most of its business with Hydro-Quebec.
“I was a bit shocked,” he said.
The company's employees already gave money to various political parties at the riding level.
Dick said Bibeau wasn't satisfied and that he persisted after the Liberals were elected in 2003. It was clear to him: give money to the Liberals and your Hydro-Quebec contracts will go well.
“I found some of the things Mr. Bibeau did illogical and I didn't understand what he was telling me. It didn't make any sense to me and I thought it was quite odd for an advisor to the premier,” he said.
Dick said he even spoke to senior Hydro executive Thierry Vandal, now head of the utility, about his concern.
He said Vandal told him not to worry, and that contracts like the ones RSW had were not in danger.
Bibeau issues denial
Late Monday Marc Bibeau issued a statement saying that Georges Dick was making "false and defamatory allegations."
Bibeau said he has never pretended to be a government member, never used a government business card, and never promised anyone they would benefit from a political donation.
Bibeau has been the subject of other witness testimony, most recently in June when former Liberal fundraising executive Violette Trepanier said Bibeau hosted parties but denied they were fundraising events.
In March Bibeau issued a statement denying other allegation made at the inquiry, namely that he had raised more than $400,000 at a single event.
he Bibeau family owns several construction firms including Shockbeton and Saramac, which were searched in the past year as part of a UPAC investigation, with the family firms accused of diverting construction materials from an AMT job site to that of a family member.
Hydro Quebec's former president
Earlier Tuesday, former Hydro-Quebec president Andre Caillé said Bibeau called Hydro to enquire about which firms were getting contracts.
Caillé had to explain to the Charbonneau Commission how the public utility ensured the many projects that took place under his watch were not taken over by corrupt organizations.
Several witnesses over the past two years have said how strong-arm tactics and cost overruns were the norm at Hydro construction projects, especially those taking place on Quebec's North Shore.
Former Hydro president Andre Caillé did not discuss workplace conditions, but said Hydro-Quebec was in a unique position in that it was asked to both comply with laws giving contracts to low bidders, but also supposed to encourage Quebec-based businesses to create jobs.
He said that for "strategic reasons" Hydro at times encouraged companies to create new subsidiaries to bid on contracts and keep as many jobs in the province as possible.
Caillé said when contracts were being planned and tendered, he ensured there were always at least three companies under consideration -- and preferred to have at least five companies vying for business.
"Was there diversity in our bids? What worried me the most was that we could end up with our hands tied with just one or two firms and I didn't want that," said Caillé.
He said that having more companies bidding for work was the best way to prevent collusion.
"I wanted to apply what I had learned. Like you, I had questions when I started. I learned three firms was a good number, but five or more was ideal," said Caillé.
Hydro-Quebec was running about $6 billion in projects during Caillé's era.