Martin C. Barry
With the hiring of six forensic financial analysts, the City of Laval has decided to step up its efforts to recover millions of dollars that may have found their way through corrupt practices over a period of around 20 years into the pockets of some of the city’s public works sub-contractors.
Forensic experts hired
Although the Quebec government’s Bill 26 allows the province’s towns and cities to declare a prosecution amnesty for sub-contractors who voluntarily admit they profited from corruption, Laval has decided to step up its efforts through the hiring of the experts who will be expected to furnish specific evidence of wrongdoing among industry sub-contractors.
“The reimbursement program was adopted by the Quebec government last November,” Mayor Marc Demers said during a press conference held on the issue at city hall last Wednesday. “The deadline for expressing an interest in participating is set for Oct. 31, 2016. Since we are determined to have all the legislative and legal tools placed at our disposal to get back to Laval residents what is their due, we will be taking advantage of this time to encourage the participation of the largest number possible in the program.”
Former police on team
Hired for a period of six months at a cost of $390,000, the analysts will be working under the supervision of the City of Laval’s legal affairs department and will be collaborating as well with the city’s Bureau of Integrity and Ethics (BIEL). The city pointed out in a statement that two of the experts are retired former Laval policemen, while the other four are members of the Charbonneau Commission team appointed by the province to conduct an inquiry on the awarding of public contracts in the construction industry.
“The auditors we hired will be working on a plan with established priorities,” added Demers. “That being said, all calls for tenders, contracts and conditions for their awarding since 1996 can become the subject of verifications. I am certain that this work will prove to be profitable for Laval’s taxpayers. I also point out that whoever may wish to get into contact with the BIEL can do it confidentially by phoning 450-575-BIEL (2435) or by e-mail at email@example.com.”
“Our obligation as a municipality is to perform this analysis before Oct. 31, to investigate and be sure as to whether there are or aren’t cases,” said city manager Serge Lamontagne. “This is what we will be doing in the course of our investigation of all the past contracts.” In addition, the city is not ruling out the possibility lawsuits could be launched against former contractors to recover sums if that course of action is deemed necessary.
According to Demers, former Charbonneau Commission assistant director Martin Comeau will be leading Laval’s investigation team. The unit will also include Barbara Bernier, François Boisclair, Steve Lynch, Serge Bouliane and Richard Brousseau. He said Laval is the first or one of the first municipalities in Quebec to use the option provided by the province to increase its chances of getting back diverted money.