Marshall promises Muskrat Falls oversight committee

James
James McLeod
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Will be staffed by top bureaucrats

Premier Tom Marshall says he’ll set up a Muskrat Falls oversight committee, staffed by bureaucrats across at least four different government departments, and headed by the province’s top civil servant.
On Wednesday afternoon, following the opening in the House of Assembly, Marshall signalled that he’ll beef up government monitoring when it comes to the massive hydroelectric development. On Thursday, he gave reporters specific details of what that will entail.

Premier Tom Marshall. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

The committee, made up of bureaucrats from the departments of Natural Resources, Finance, Justice and Environment, will report directly to cabinet, and the government is asking for more frequent updates from Nalcor on project finances.

“There will be monthly reports. We’ll meet with Nalcor monthly,” Marshall told reporters outside the legislature Thursday afternoon. “There’ll also be quarterly reports as well. We want Nalcor to release its financial information on a quarterly basis as opposed to annually, and they’ve agreed to do that.”

The announcement comes just a few weeks after The Telegram first reported that the government didn’t ask to review a key report by an independent engineering firm assigned to conduct oversight on costs, construction timelines and other aspects of the $7.7-billion hydroelectric project.

The independent engineer provides reports to Ottawa as a condition of the federal loan guarantee.

On Feb. 24, Dalley told the Telegram, “We didn’t need to see the report,” because he was confident in the work being done by Nalcor.

At that time, Dalley said there were no experts at all in the Department of Natural Resources doing detailed oversight of Nalcor. He said the reporting structure was simply Nalcor CEO Ed Martin speaking directly to the deputy minister, who would report to Dalley.

On Thursday, Marshall acknowledged that some people have been a little bit concerned about the state of things.

“We’re listening. We’re hearing what people have to say,” he said. “It is a big project. It’s the people’s project. We sense that the people want to have more information, they want more oversight, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball was unconvinced; he said he likes the idea of the government keeping a closer eye on Nalcor while Muskrat Falls is under construction, but this move comes too late.

The energy corporation is currently spending around $2 million per day on Muskrat Falls, and the procurement contracts that have already been signed total more than 93,000 pages.

“Most of the commitments to Muskrat Falls are already made — without oversight,” he said. “It leaves us in a very precarious situation here about cost overruns, something we’ve been very concerned about.”

New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael said she’s not satisfied to take the government’s word for it when it comes to project oversight; she wants to see the reports from the independent engineer.

Marshall said he expects to announce the full details of his Muskrat Falls oversight plan alongside Dalley sometime early next week.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Muskrat Falls oversight committee, The Telegram, Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Maureen
    March 15, 2014 - 13:08

    Just image there spending all that money, money that could be spent on schools, hospitals, infrastructure, on the future for our children and there children and their children, but no, not this government there throwing all that money away and then on top of that wants all of us to pay it back. If you ask me that's a double blow to us. How are we ever going to get out of this hole?

  • Wade
    March 14, 2014 - 11:46

    Reminds me of jumping out of an airplane confident that your parachute is well packed then realizing you left it in the hangar.

  • Doug
    March 14, 2014 - 09:35

    It sounds more like closing the barn door after the horse has left! This sounds like more government diatribe (just listen to Steve Kent) since we have been constantly told that everything was transparent by the Dunderdale government! But now since she has left (but the same people are in Cabinet) and Marshall leads the government nothing was transparent! One has to wonder where all these Ministers were for the past several years? Was Dunderdale a dictator and her Cabinet only paid lip service? But now since the Tories want to get reelected; they are going to become people driven and more open! Where have I heard this before; possibly just before all previous 3-elections!

  • Robb
    March 14, 2014 - 09:34

    Good on the gov't for this, and is too little, too late all the opposition can come up with? Absolutely lame, and I would certainly hate to see the libs or ndp in charge of such a wonderful project. The libs would find some way to give it all away, and the ndp, well let's just say they remind me of the heritage crew in St. John's who are afraid of new things.

  • james browwne
    March 14, 2014 - 08:01

    Isn't that like putting the fox in charge of the chicken house. What a crock

  • Tony Rockel
    March 14, 2014 - 04:03

    As usual, Nalcor will tell government only what feels like telling government, except that its non-disclosures will now be on a quarterly basis. Government will, in turn, tell the public nothing worth knowing, on a quarterly basis.