09/28/2012 04:13 EDT | Updated 11/28/2012 05:12 EST

Montreal could look to NYC for anti-corruption work

As the Charbonneau commission exposes many of Quebec's corrupt enterprises, North America's biggest municipal anti-corruption unit, located in New York City, comes to mind.

New York's anti-corruption unit has an annual budget of $20 million and access to most of the city's administrative system.

The team in the Big Apple investigates about 14,000 tips, complaints and requests for investigations every year.

NYC commissioner Rose Gill Hearn said the anti-corruption unit has about 1,000 cases open for investigation at any given time.

"We are permitted by law, access to contracts, databases, the physical premise, premises of city offices. We don't need subpoenas to get that information," said Hearn.

Last year, New York Police arrested more than 800 people after investigations pointed in their direction.

New York City's former inspector general Thomas Thatcher, said a company's record of performance is not the only thing a municipality should look at before handing over a project.

"It's not enough to look at a company and say they have a superb record of performance. You must also look — do they have the ethics that we want them [to have] as part of this project?" said Thatcher.

Unlike many North American cities New York is not obliged to award a contract to the lowest bidder, something that has seemingly been a big part of the scheme in Montreal.

Lino Zambito, former vice-president of Infrabec Construction, told the Montreal inquiry on Thursday that a dozen of businesses in his line of work colluded to divvy up the business. The companies would not underbid each other and maintain a rotation to ensure that every company got contracts.

This confession had Montreal mayor Gérald Tremblay requesting that the province be involved in the Charbonneau commission.

Tremblay added that, had his government known about this information in 2004, action would have been taken sooner.