A former government bureaucrat says he sounded the alarm on collusion in Quebec government contracts more than a decade ago, and the warnings went to the highest levels of bureaucracy as well as the transport minister himself, but to no avail.
François Beaudry, a former Transport Department official, told the Charbonneau commission corruption inquiry on Monday that an informant tipped him off about collusion in 2002.
He said the collusion was among entrepreneurs who were involved in construction contracts with the cities of Laval and Montreal and even the Transport Department.
Beaudry said the informant provided a wealth of information, including claims that construction firms were dividing up contracts among each other and engineers were divulging sensitive information to help construction companies circumvent the bidding process.
He said the information was reliable, and in one example, he predicted which companies would win several contracts in Laval, north of Montreal.
When it became clear the provincial government would not act, Beaudry said he suggested to his informant that he go to the police.
But the informant was reluctant, Beaudry said.
"You can't imagine the type of influence these people have," Beaudry said the informant told him. "I will never speak publicly about it, even to the police."
Beaudry also said information was passed on to provincial police, which was confirmed by the testimony of a former deputy minister, Jean-Paul Beaulieu.
Beaulieu, whose testimony came later on Monday, said the information about the collusion was brought to the attention of Serge Menard, then Parti Québécois transport minister, and Denis Dolbec, Menard's chief of staff.
Beaulieu testified he still remembered Menard's reaction.
"Mr. Menard recalled the police sweep involving the Hells Angels and he told me to take my time," Beaulieu recalled. "He told me specifically to take the time necessary to investigate something as important as collusion, that it would take many years to know the entire network."
Shortly after the April, 2003, provincial election that brought the Liberals to power, the new transport minister, Yvon Marcoux, was also informed, but nothing happened on the police front.
Beaudry says that, for a long time, he hoped the police investigation would lead to something.
"In all the years that I worked in the department, until 2007, maybe naively, I was waiting for a big police raid," Beaudry said. "I waited for it in 2004, I waited in 2005, I waited in 2006. Finally, nothing ever happened."
Beaudry is best known for coming forward to Radio-Canada's investigative news program Enquête in 2009, where he claimed that Mafia-linked companies controlled much of the road building contracts doled out in Montreal.
Beaudry said he understood the inaction was because engineering and construction firms did not want things to change.
"They were a sort of establishment that were sufficiently influential to stop any of these measures from seeing the light of day," Beaudry said.