Poor management or corruption? Quebec's Auditor General tables second report

Quebec's Auditor General dismissed allegations of a collusion scheme involving UPAC, but was quick to note there's plenty of mismanagement wasting your tax dollars.

In her second report of the year, Guylaine Leclerc said the claims made by independent investigator Annie Trudel are unfounded.

In 2017, Trudel alleged the province's anti-corruption squad and the province's financial regulator (Autorité des marches financiers) were involved in an underground bid rigging system that would see consulting firms pay large fees in order to be approved to have the ability to bid on government contracts.

Leclerc said after her team examined the certification process for nearly 100 consulting firms and spoke to Trudel herself, no evidence of such a scheme could be found. 

"Our work did not enable us to confirm the existence of a scheme between the AMF and UPAC to favour one consulting firm," the report said.

Leclerc did note the process was made difficult due to the fact Trudel would not reveal the name of any specific firm, invoking professional secrecy.

No evidence of collusion, but plenty of problems within

The Auditor General's report may not have found evidence of collusion within the current system, but it did find many shortcomings.

Leclerc said the flaws in the verification process construction firms must pass through can be attributed to officers and officials lack of expertise in the jobs their being tasked at completing. She said there is a lack of training or experience in financial matters that is only compounded by a high turnover rate within the province's anti-corruption police force.

Real estate deals, sloppy deal making or something more sinister?

Leclerc was also tasked with investigating several real estate contracts involving buildings owned by Liberal fundraiser Marc Bibeau that were signed at higher rates than market value.

The Auditor expanded the investigation, looking into other renewals of office space leases signed by the Société québécoise des infrastructures (SQI), the agency responsible for such matters.

"There were serious shortcomings and in some cases they were major," Leclerc told a news conference Wednesday. 

She pointed to a contract involving the province's worker health and safety board in Montreal signed in 2007, which was renewed well before its expiry (in 2014) for a period of 22-years at a cost of $110 million. Leclerc said the small group that approved the deal, which included an interim president and two administrators, did little to get the best deal possible.

Leclerc also made note of the contracts signed by the SQI for a trio of buildings in Quebec City. All three contracts were signed for leases exceeding 10 years, contrary to the agency's own policy, with one of the buildings nearly half empty while continuing to cost the government more than $2 million in rent per year.

The Auditor said in many cases the SQI did not attempt to find competing bids from other companies, including one signed with Bibeau and two signed with Liberal Party donor Georges Gantcheff.

"What was the intention behind this? That's up to the police to determine" Leclerc said.