Transport Minister Marc Garneau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan head to a morning session at the Liberal cabinet retreat. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/CP)
"After a thorough review and in advance of my departure, the Department cleared me of any potential conflict of interest.""While in uniform I had no involvement with the development of the specifications or evaluation criteria for the HQSS project. In my role at DEW, I am not involved with the HQSS file. All of my actions have been in compliance with the post-employment rules and restrictions and I will naturally continue to honour those going forward." National Defence confirms Burton did not "have access to any list of comprehensive (letter of interest or request for information responses)," nor did he "have access to or partake in the review of the HQSS Project bid submissions" after the bids were submitted. The department does say, however, that one of the director's responsibilities "was to draft and seek approval of the Statement of Requirements for the HQSS Project" — a statement Burton disputes. Questions about his move have been circulating in the defence community since before Christmas — both anecdotally and in writing. Former defence procurement boss Alan Williams says questions need to be asked because perception is important as reality when dealing with contracts in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It's up to public works — now that bids are closed — to verify the arrangement with Burton and that "the appropriate firewalls are place." In addition to the post-employment restrictions, public works requires contractors to be free of conflict of interest, which is defined as either a direct conflict — or the appearance of one if the company or "any of its subcontractors, any of their respective employees or former employees was involved in any manner in the preparation of the bid solicitation." Public works was asked whether any conflict of interest been declared in the program and spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold said the department is "following all procurement process guidelines for this procurement, and as such we will ensure that all appropriate assurances are received from the bidders, as required." Williams said he wonders whether someone is trying to sabotage DEW's bid and lay the groundwork for a possible appeal to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
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