05/15/2012 09:56 EDT | Updated 07/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Montreal auditor-general praises tighter bidding rules

Montreal's auditor-general said Tuesday the city administration is doing a better job in the way it hands out road construction contracts, no longer awarding the bulk of its contracts to the same few firms.

Jacques Bergeron released his 2011 annual report on Tuesday, saying that recent improvements in opening up the bidding process have begun to pay off.

Bergeron focused on 21 firms that obtain the majority of the road construction work in Montreal.

He found that since the city tightened its rules in 2009, almost all the firms saw their share of public contracts drop.

However, two construction companies, Simard-Beaudry Construction and Louisbourg Construction — firms both associated with construction magnate Tony Accurso — saw their share increase from $43-million in 2010 to $53-million in 2011.

Accurso was arrested in April as part of a sweep by UPAC, Quebec's anti-corruption unit, and he faces several charges including fraud, conspiracy and breach of trust.

"Mr. Accurso has fun with our new rules," charged opposition Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron. "He plays with them. He goes around these rules and at the end makes more money with the city of Montreal."

Montreal's executive committee chairman, Michael Applebaum, said the new rules governing contracts are not perfect, but they work.

"Our objective here is to make sure that the taxpayers' money is being well-spent," Applebaum said, adding the city has already implemented 92 per cent of the recommendations the attorney-general made last year.

The 500-page annual report also focuses on sanitation by-laws, criticizing the city for not doing enough to monitor substandard housing.

Bergeron also called for better security for city-owned buildings.

He has demanded tighter controls be placed on the Bonaventure expressway reconstruction project.