The head of the Quebec Ministry of Transportation’s anti-collusion unit, Jacques Duchesneau, has admitted leaking to the media a damning report tying engineering firms and construction companies to price fixing, organized crime and political donations because he said he feared his findings would be shelved after the government showed complete “disinterest” in them.
Mr. Duchesneau told the Charbonneau commission probing corruption in the province’s construction industry that when he presented his report to then transport minister Sam Hamad in September, 2011, its revelations met with total indifference.
“I wasn’t impressed by the way the minister received it. I didn’t get a sense that it interested him,” Mr. Duchesneau told the commission during a second day of testimony. “When we wanted to hand him the report ... he didn’t want to see it. He stepped back and said: ‘I don’t want to see the report. My assistants will take care of it.’”
The anti-collusion unit was set up in February, 2010, after media reports and opposition attacks condemned the government’s handling of an infrastructure program worth more than $40-billion over several years.
Mr. Duchesneau said he left the meeting with Mr. Hamad convinced the Charest government would keep secret the findings of his team’s 18-month investigation – which included 500 interviews with entrepreneurs and engineers.
“How did the report become public knowledge?” asked the commission’s assistant chief prosecutor, Claude Chartrand. “I’m the one who gave a copy to a journalist,” Mr. Duchesneau responded. “I made a commitment to all those people and I could not accept that the report be shelved.”
Mr. Duchesneau’s report uncovered what he called a “clandestine universe that was worse than I ever imagined.” He said the corruption had a devastating impact on the economy and threatened the democratic system. He said some entrepreneurs had to declare bankruptcy because they weren’t part of the group that fixed prices during the tendering process on government contracts.
Mr. Hamad, who is now Minister of Economic Development, said on Thursday that Mr. Duchesneau left the meeting in September, 2011, with a false impression.
“He submitted his report. And he did a great job. The proof that he did a good job is that we approved many of his recommendations. It’s really too bad that he got this false impression of me,” Mr. Hamad said.