MONTREAL - A former employee at the Ministry of Transport confirmed Wednesday he had to warn a subordinate about his too-close-for-comfort ties to representatives from engineering firms with which the province did business.

During testimony at the Charbonneau Commission Wednesday, Claude Paquet admitted he shared lunch with representatives of consulting engineering firms, but less often than his subordinate Guy Hamel.

Hamel has already admitted before the commission his boss had told him to “calm down” during a meeting they had in 2003.

Paquet said they had the discussion at a meeting of the minstry’s regional directorate, and that Hamel told him he would make sure to keep the meetings businesslike in the future.

Paquet also confessed to having received bottles of wine as a gift from firms with the ministry did business with.

At the time, from 2001 to 2003, it was “common practice,” he said.

Paquet said he never felt like the firms “expected compensation from me” in exchange for the gifts.

For the past two weeks, the commission has been looking at how and why the transport department either overlooked obvious price fixing or broke its own rules on how the contracts were awarded.

Wednesday morning, the inquiry also heard about how the construction at Acadie Circle was riddled with rule-breaking.

Rebuilt in 2001, the contract was split between two controversial contractors -- Lino Zambito and Tony Accurso.

Zambito has said costs exceeded the initial estimates by nearly 50 per cent, and now Claude Paquet, an engineer from the Transport Ministry, says that the government broke its own rules when awarding the contract.

The tenders were way above the MTQ's estimates.

Normally, it simply goes back into tenders but instead the contract was awarded to one of Accurso's companies, because initially, it was the lowest bidder.

The ministry simply decided to renegotiate a reduction in price with the company, which is also illegal.

The decision was authorized by the deputy transport minister at the time, Paquet said, who said it would save time.