04/03/2012 11:15 EDT | Updated 06/03/2012 05:12 EDT

Internal probe clears Canada's ex-Libyan envoy over husband's SNC-Lavalin job

OTTAWA - Canada's ex-ambassador to Libya has been cleared of any suggestion of conflict of interest in an internal review by the Foreign Affairs Department.

Sandra McCardell left her post as ambassador to Libya after a story surfaced that her husband had a job with Montreal engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, one of the major Canadian companies doing business in the North African country prior to the fall of Moammar Gadhafi last year.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird ordered the review in January.

An executive summary from a review of the two senior bureaucrats at Foreign Affairs concludes that McCardell's husband and his company did not benefit because of the relationship.

It also says McCardell regularly informed embassy staff and her bosses about the situation, but it says she should not have waited until October 2010 before formally seeking "more detailed guidance" from the department's values and ethics division.

McCardell was posted to Libya in the summer of 2009 and oversaw the temporary closing of the embassy in February 2011 as the NATO bombing campaign began, before returning with Baird last October to reopen it.

"There is no indication that Ms. McCardell bestowed, or appeared to bestow, any advantages to SNC-Lavalin during this one-year period. There is no evidence that Ms. McCardell was influenced by the fact that her spouse worked for SNC Lavalin," said the executive summary.

"The main conclusion of the report is that Ms. McCardell acted overall in an ethical and transparent manner with regard to her spouse's employment."

The probe involved interviews with more than a dozen government officials, as well as McCardell and her husband.

Embassy staff said they never felt pressured by McCardell to favour SNC-Lavalin.

Government officials say McCardell is now on language training to learn Arabic as part of a longtime career plan. They say she will likely be assigned to another diplomatic post where those language skills can be put to use.

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