Corruption rife, says Charbonneau Commission report

Corruption rife, says Charbonneau Commission report

Main pic: Superior Court Justice France Charbonneau speaks at a press conference after the findings of her report that looked into corruption in Quebec’s construction industry were released in Montreal, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL — The stench of collusion and corruption that permeated Quebec’s construction industry and spread to bureaucrats, political parties and organized crime was far more rife than originally thought, says the judge who headed the Charbonneau Commission.

“This investigation confirmed there was a real problem in Quebec and that it was broader and more deeply rooted than we believed,” France Charbonneau said in a statement Tuesday as she delivered her long-awaited report.

“This finding shouldn’t discourage society. On the contrary, the very creation of the commission and the collaboration of many people benefited it, proving that Quebec is ready to do whatever it takes to protect its values of integrity and the public interest.”

Charbonneau’s report contains some 60 recommendations she called “concrete solutions” designed to help clean up the system of handing out contracts.

Among them is better protection for whistle-blowers; public consultations on the number of mandates a mayor can serve; and the creation of an independent public procurement authority to oversee the awarding of public contracts.

“No single law or measure will be enough on its own to overcome this phenomenon (corruption),” she said. “The collaboration of everyone is primordial. Only collectively will we able to make Quebec a better society, where ethics, integrity, honesty and rigour are at the forefront.”

She also called for tightening rules on the acceptance of gifts by public officials; identifying the employer of political party donors; and establishing a single ethics and lobbying commissioner to oversee the province and municipalities.

All were central to testimony heard over 263 days that touched on allegations that some construction companies had links to organized crime and that the widespread collusion benefited political parties and corrupt bureaucrats.

“A culture of impunity developed,” she said.

She urged the government to do more to help those who denounce corruption and to follow up on their claims.

“Whistle-blowing must not be perceived as an act of betrayal but as an act of loyalty toward society,” Charbonneau said.

She did not take questions or grant interviews after the statement.

Former Quebec premier Jean Charest created the Charbonneau Commission in 2011 after months of intense public pressure, sparked in large part by various exposes by investigative journalists on the construction industry and its ties to organized crime and the financing of political parties.

Charbonneau and co-commissioner Renaud Lachance disagreed, however, on whether evidence presented established a link between companies answering contract tenders and donations made to provincial parties.

“The facts before the commission did not show a link, whether direct or indirect, between providing political input to the provincial level and the awarding of a public contract,” Lachance wrote.

The inquiry heard testimony from nearly 300 witnesses spanning 30 months, beginning in the summer of 2012.

Charbonneau also suggested the province adopt a law modelled on New York State’s False Claims Act, which would allow the province to file suit against companies and individuals who defraud the government.

Premier Philippe Couillard suggested any province casting a similar microscope on its own jurisdiction would see the same results as Quebec, adding he intends to act on each of the 60 recommendations in the 1,741-page report, which was partly redacted due to ongoing criminal cases.

“A lot has been done, a lot is (being) done, a lot more will be done in accordance with these recommendations,” Couillard said. “We will analyze each of them and follow up with each of them.”

Couillard said perhaps Quebec politicians believed they had stricter fundraising rules than they actually had.

“Events have shown we were not right to feel safe,” Couillard said, adding the new $100 donation limit brought in by the previous Parti Quebecois government in 2013 has ensured fundraising is no longer an issue for politicians.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

Categories: Politics

About Author

Write a Comment

Only registered users can comment.