NEWS

Elections Quebec keen on corruption probe

09/15/2011 10:20 EDT | Updated 01/12/2012 02:09 EST

Quebec's chief electoral officer is requesting a copy of a leaked report that claims corruption and collusion in the construction industry, and could launch a separate investigation.

A spokesperson for the elections watchdog has asked to interview Jacques Duchesneau, the head of Quebec's anti-corruption squad, and author of the leaked report.

Elections Quebec could launch an investigation of its own, the spokesperson said Thursday -- and prosecute individuals in the construction industry suspected of giving illegal donations to political parties in return for lucrative building contracts.

Government rejects enquiry call

Quebec's transport minister has dismissed calls for a full-scale enquiry into the construction industry, despite a damning anti-corruption squad report that details a deeply rooted clandestine public tender system marked by cost overruns and bid-rigging.

Transport Minister Pierre Moreau calls the leaked report a "proper diagnostic" of ills plaguing Quebec's construction sector, which gives the government "a way to proceed, to make changes."

But there's no need for a wider inquest into the construction industry, said Moreau, rejecting opposition demands for a larger investigation.

The minister did say he hopes the report will assist police in making arrests.

He also said he wants to see changes within his own ministry.

"I would like to see, as far as I'm concerned as transport minister, measures that are implemented within the department to make sure that it won't happen again," he said.

Calls for a full-fledged construction industry inquiry were renewed this week, after Radio-Canada released troubling findings gleaned from a report prepared by Quebec's anti-collusion squad.

Squad leader Jacques Duchesneau details systemic irregularities in Quebec's Transport Ministry and construction sector that he says threaten the department's integrity.

Without naming any specific firms, the report documents a system massively infiltrated by organized crime elements linked to construction companies.

Some engineering firms regularly inflate costs for major projects without any scrutiny from the Transport Department.

Those firms then make large donations to provincial political parties.

The province's anti-corruption squad was created in February 2011 with a mandate of investigating and prosecuting cases of corruption, influence peddling and embezzlement in the province.

The government pledged $30 million a year to fund the squad, which it called the first of its kind in Canada.

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