MONTREAL - Allegations of impropriety swirling around SNC-Lavalin and Quebec's construction industry has prompted the Shriners to take greater control of who builds its new Montreal hospital, the philanthropic group said Thursday.
The Shriners selected SNC-Lavalin to manage construction of the $127 million hospital that will be built adjacent to a $2.35 billion super-hospital set to open in the summer of 2015.
However, the group has decided to retain control of the bidding process and selection of sub-contractors instead of making SNC general contractors.
"That gave us the ability to select the contractors that would be invited to bid on our project and we took the effort to purge any names off our selected list that had been accused of being involved in (bribery)," said Jerry Gantt, a director for Shriners International and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Gantt said the Shriners were "very sensitive" to allegations of impropriety and chose the system to be transparent and protect its own reputation.
SNC-Lavalin was hired two years ago for structural engineering, civil engineering and pre-construction services.
It will now be paid an undisclosed fee to oversee the construction.
"We are very pleased to have been awarded a third key project in Quebec’s health care sector," stated Charles Chebl, executive vice-president of SNC-Lavalin Group.
Gantt said it selected the Montreal-based firm because of its role as the primary partner in a super-hospital and to avoid potential problems by introducing another contractor on the site.
A consortium composed of SNC-Lavalin and Innisfree Ltd. has been contracted under a 34-year public-private partnership to design, build, finance and maintain the new hospital campus.
"We felt like if we could negotiate a favourable construction management fee and then us being in control of who the subcontractors were and the selection of those subcontractors that we could get the best of all worlds," said Gantt in an interview from Houston, Texas.
The eight-storey Shriners building that will span 20,500 square metres will more than double the size of the existing facility that will ultimately be sold.
SNC-Lavalin will also be responsible for the procurement, installation and commissioning of medical equipment.
Construction will begin this month and is expected to be completed in the fall of 2015.
It will have 22 single-patient rooms, four operating rooms, ambulatory care services and rehabilitation services, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
The Shriners hospital will be linked to the new Montreal Children's Hospital operated by the McGill University Health Centre.
It is one of several hospital projects being built on the site that has resulted in fraud charges being filed against two former SNC senior executives, former CEO Pierre Duhaime and Riadh Ben Aissa.
Gantt said the new hospital will strengthen the service it has provided since 1925 to Canadian children, especially those in Quebec.
"We look forward to the next 90 years at the new campus and... being able to do a lot more in research, teaching and therefore a lot more in the delivery of health-care to the kids," he said.