Witnesses at the Charbonneau Commission say senior members of the Landry and Charest governments knew that construction firms in Quebec were conspiring to fix prices and rig bids, but did nothing to intervene.

This week a series of upper-echelon employees from the Ministry of Transportation said they told their political bosses in 2002 and 2003 that something was wrong with the bids to repair the Acadie Circle interchange.

Gilles Roussy said he's known for 20 years that the asphalt industry has operated as a cartel--but could not convince successive governments to care.

A year ago, witnesses told the Charbonneau Commission that an asphalt cartel conspired in Montreal and Laval to deliver low-quality product.


On Monday Deputy Minister Jean-Paul Beaulieu, the senior bureacrat in the department, said he found the matter so serious he refused to authorize payment to the Tony Accurso-owned firm that won the bid for the work.

Beaulieu only learned that Accurso's company was eventually paid because he follows the testimony at the corruption inquiry.

He says someone must have gone over his head--to the minister or the premier.

"They were people who were making calls to very high levels," said Beaulieu.

On Tuesday Gilles Roussy, the assistant deputy transport minister, explained how he spent much of his career trying to make the system for awarding engineering contracts airtight.

His work was not necessarily appreciated, with both Parti Quebecois and Liberal party attachés approaching him to know if the government was playing around with construction companies.

Roussy said that at one point Liberal minister David Whissel was not happy with how a contract was being handled and wanted to withdraw the tender and start again.

Instead Roussy accelerated that project.

While attempting to make the bidding project as tamper-proof as possible, Roussy noticed that some companies were getting greedy, which prompted him to act

"I asked the contracting division to produce for each construction contract that went ten percent over the evaluation of the MTQ for the report of the bid openings," said Roussy.

Roussy said one specific example was on the Decarie Expressway, where bids came in much higher than anticipated.

A new call for tenders brought prices down, but that was still unable to change the overall culture at the Ministry of Transportation.

"The Ministry of Transportation does not have the tools to investigate the risks of collusion," said Roussy.