06/13/2012 07:06 EDT | Updated 08/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Ex UPAC head testifies at Quebec corruption commission

The former head of Quebec's anti-corruption squad UPAC is testifying this afternoon at the Charbonneau Commission.

Jacques Duchesneau described the early days of UPAC as laborious and riddled with red tape, starting with how he was hired.

The former Montreal police chief entrusted with leading the special corruption unit said he was forced to sign an "insulting" affidavit that stated he'd never violated municipal political party financing laws when he ran for Montreal mayor in the 1990s.

Duchesneau said the affidavit was imposed by Quebec's transport deputy minister, who told him the order "came from a superior."

The former police chief then took strict measures when he started hiring investigators and staff for his squad, including a mandatory polygraph test.

Duchesneau said he wanted to make sure no one involved in his unit had any controversial dealings with Quebec's construction industry.

Duchesneau says many potential hirees failed the test - and were turned away.

The one-time Montreal mayoral candidate and life-long police officer is the star witness at the Charbonneau Commission.

The unit he led – UPAC – was created two years ago with a mandate to investigate allegations of corruption, influence peddling and embezzlement in the building sector.

Duchesneau's initial report was leaked to media last fall, and documented systemic irregularities within Quebec's Transport Ministry and construction sector.

Details of the report painted a troubling portrait of a tender and bid system infiltrated by organized crime linked to construction companies.

His report prompted Premier Jean Charest to call for a full-scale public commission, which got underway this spring. The public inquiry is chaired by Judge France Charbonneau of Quebec Superior Court.