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Technoparc CEO, board slammed by Montreal Auditor General

06/16/2015 02:02 EDT | Updated 06/16/2016 05:59 EDT
Montreal's auditor general, Jacques Bergeron, has found dozens of problems with governance and accountability at the publicly-funded industrial park known as Technoparc, including questionable compensation for the CEO, Mario Monette, who receives a $200,000 annual salary, plus bonuses and a generous car allowance.

Technoparc is a non-profit organization in the St-Laurent borough.  It's funded largely by an annual contribution of $2.6 million from the city of Montreal.  

The agency's mission is to encourage high-tech companies in the life sciences, information technology and aerospace industries to buy and develop land in the industrial park off highway 40.

Bergeron released his report Monday afternoon.

In his review of the Technoparc's governance, Bergeron identified major problems including:

- Lack of oversight by the city.

- Excessive commissions and expenses for CEO Mario Monette.

- Failure of board members to follow the rules they put in place.

- Lack of thorough documentation.

- Board members voting to give themselves contracts. 

- Expense claims submitted by the CEO and senior managers not properly approved.

- Lack of transparency on land sales.

- Contracts awarded before being voted on by the board.

Big money for CEO

Bergeron's report targeted in particular the role of Technoparc CEO Mario Monette, who also sits on the agency's board of directors.

Bergeron noted that from 2007-2013 Monette received commissions for each piece of land sold in the park.  He found that Bergeron did not withdraw from board meetings or abstain from votes where such sales were approved. 

Bergeron said this was a violation of ethics and professional conduct rules.

Bergeron found, for example, that Monette earned nearly $30,000 in commissions in 2012 and close to $100,000 in commissions in 2013, on top of his $200,000 base salary.

"These added commissions appear questionable at the very least, given that this non-profit organization is largely subsidized by the city," Bergeron wrote.

Bergeron also noted that Monette receives a $15,000 annual car allowance in addition to his salary. Until 2014, Monette was allowed to claim expenses for use of his personal vehicle in addition to the car allowance.

Bergeron noted the maximum for car allowances permitted in other city departments is $3,372 a year. 

'Ethically questionable'

Bergeron also found that Technoparc board members – including the chairman of the board, Paul Saint-Jacques – voted on contracts from which they stood to benefit personally.

For instance, Saint-Jacques proposed at a board meeting in 2013 that he be awarded a $25,000 consulting contract, which was renewed in 2014.  

Bergeron found that no professional services contract was ever drawn up, and Saint-Jacques did not withdraw or abstain from the vote at which the board awarded him the contract.

"The chair should have withdrawn from deliberations and abstained from voting regarding a situation that could, at least in appearance, be likened to a conflict of interest," Bergeron wrote.

In another case, a lawyer who serves on the board was awarded a $10,000 contract – a situation that Bergeron said was "ethically questionable."

Missing documents

Bergeron found generally that oversight, documentation and proper approvals of expenses and contracts are severely lacking at the Technoparc.  

In a review of 223 expense claims submitted by the CEO and senior managers, Bergeron found a third of them had inadequate or missing supporting documents.

In the case of a contract worth hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to a real estate consultant, Bergeron found the contract was signed by the CEO before it was approved by the board of directors.

Overall, Bergeron found "a lack of thoroughness in documenting decisions taken, making it sometimes impossible to check the validity of certain facts."

Bergeron also notes that the city didn't show much interest in oversight of the Technoparc.

He found that city bureaucrats did little to follow up on the city's annual investment of more than $2 million in the Technoparc and failed to verify if Montreal was getting value for its money.

Bergeron made several recommendations to improve governance of the Technoparc.  He noted in his report that Technoparc managers have promised to follow up on most of his recommendations.

Bergeron will present his report at a news conference at 2 p.m.  The city is expected to respond after that.

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