The head of a provincial unit investigating corruption in construction contracts awarded by Transport Quebec has stepped down following allegations of irregular donations to an old political campaign.

Jacques Duchesneau, former Montreal police chief, informed Transport minister Sam Hamad Thursday morning that he would step aside until his name is cleared.

Duchesneau ran for mayor of Montreal in 1998 and lost.

Now Gilles Prud'homme, who was one of Duchesneau's campaign managers, says that Duchesneau approached him in 1999 and asked if his name could be used on a $10,000 loan application for his "New Montreal" political party.

In an interview with TVA, Prud'homme said he thought Duchesneau was trying to pay off the debt from his electoral campaign as quickly as possible.

He also said he later found that a second $10,000 loan application had been made using the address of a campaign organizer's brother and a false name.

Transport Minister acted swiftly

Transport Minister Sam Hamad called Duchesneau as soon as he heard about the report and asked him to come to Quebec City.

"We had a meeting with him this morning at 9 o'clock and I asked him to explain to us what happened," said Hamad.

Duchesneau then told the minister that the allegations were false, but that he would step down until the matter was investigated.

'Respect for institutions'

In a brief news conference Thursday afternoon, Duchesneau denied the allegations against him, but said that he understands he cannot work until the air is cleared.

"I have too much respect for public opinion," said Duchesneau, indicating that he would not say anything else until Quebec's Director General of Elections has investigated Prud'homme's statements.

"To maintain respect for the institution, I will not answer questions and wait for the judgement of the Director General of Elections."