04/10/2014 05:10 EDT | Updated 06/10/2014 05:59 EDT

Construction boss contradicts competitor at corruption inquiry, denies collusion

MONTREAL - The head of a firm that received the second highest number of roadwork contracts from the Quebec government denies it colluded with its primary competitor.

Construction DJL president Marcel Roireau's testimony on Thursday before Quebec's corruption inquiry contradicted that of a former rival construction boss who painted a picture on Wednesday of systemic collusion.

Roireau didn't admit to any wrongdoing as he addressed the Charbonneau Commission but said companies respected certain territorial boundaries and had pacts of non-aggression.

Later, Roireau says it's possible that others at DJL were involved in collusion but that he wasn't personally aware.

Roireau was largely evasive on the stand and vague with his answers as he was repeatedly asked about collusion.

"It's not up to me to define if there was collusion," Roireau said flatly after describing a discussion about profit margins with a fellow executive.

His testimony clashed with that of Normand Bedard, the former head of DJL's primary competitor, who told the corruption inquiry there was widespread collusion on municipal and provincial government contracts.

Bedard testified he was aware of such practices spanning at least a few decades and said there was an agreement between DJL and his own company, Sintra Inc.

But Roireau was adamant.

"I don't remember having taken part in collusion with Mr. Bedard," Roireau said.

Roireau's testimony also contradicts that of Gilles Theberge, a former director of Sintra Inc., who testified last May that asphalt companies were seeking to split up their territories, basing the dividing lines on the proximity of contracts to their plants.

In terms of dollars, Sintra and DJL ranked as No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in terms of contracts awarded by the province between 1997 and 2012.

The inquiry has heard that Sintra received $1.645 billion in government contracts over the 15 years, while Construction DJL received $884 million.

The corruption inquiry turned its attention this week to contracts involving the provincial Transport Department and political party financing.

Roireau said there was never any company policy when it came to political party financing.

The company was generous — managers, employees and their wives gave $275,279 between 1998 and 2011, spread between the three main provincial parties of the day as well as municipal donations.

About $188,000 of that went to provincial political parties, according to numbers gathered by the inquiry's research team.

A hesitant Roireau said it was "probable" that some employees, who gave $112,000 over the years, were used as so-called straw men for these donations and then reimbursed.

Roireau said the donation practice ended when he became company president in 2010. He insisted he was never reimbursed for his own donations.

Roireau insisted there was no link between political donations and getting government contracts.

He said he had no choice but to participate in partisan events organized by political aides which offered a chance to meet with the environment or transport minister, and, on one occasion, the leader of the opposition, who was Pauline Marois at the time.

Roireau said it could be poorly received by the political class if someone from the company didn't attend.