How fortunate for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that they can trust the big mega-corporations that get so much of their tax money.
How lucky that when the
provincial government takes
$563.8-million away from vital public services (like health care, dental care, the arts, the justice system, legal aid, the civil service, education, secondary education, libraries, cultural programs, pensions, wildlife research, conservation enforcement and the Human Rights Commission) to give $531-million to Nalcor and another $90-million to some as-yet unnamed corporate recipients (no wonder there’s a deficit), how lucky that this province’s citizens don’t need to worry that the transactions are in any way underhanded or illegal — at least, how lucky that so far there’s no indication that one of the main beneficiaries of the provincial deficit (that is, the Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin) engaged in any kind of bid-rigging, candidate-buying or bribery to not only secure the lucrative contract to oversee the construction of dams at Muskrat Falls, but indeed to be the main driving force behind the entire project.
Other taxpayers in other provinces and countries have not been so fortunate.
For example, the government of Angola is blaming SNC-Lavalin for endangering the lives of Angolan citizens because the company’s actions have seriously delayed the necessary refurbishment of the Matala hydro dam.
An SNC-Lavalin executive, fired after going public with numerous allegations, plans to testify in a wrongful dismissal suit that the company artificially inflated the cost of the project by $200 million through a covered-up scheme of overpaying fees to several shady Angolan agents.
Similarly, SNC-Lavalin is being accused of stalling Bangladesh’s “most significant infrastructure project,” the construction of the six-kilometre Padma Bridge.
After the World Bank withdrew a $1.2-billion loan and barred a SNC-Lavalin subsidiary from bidding on any more World Bank projects over what it called a “criminal conspiracy” involving bribery, the RCMP were sent to search SNC-Lavalin offices in Toronto.
Also, SNC-Lavalin has made a partial admission about hiring a “bribe facilitator” to secure
$6-billion worth of contracts from the Algerian state-owned oil company Sonatrach. Plus, various agencies, including the RCMP, are investigating the company over a total of $160-million in “improper payments” made to get $1-billion worth of government contracts in Libya.
Right next door
Closer to home — very, very close, in fact — Quebec’s official Charbonneau commission and others have been unearthing numerous allegations of corruption involving the company that was formed in the province in 1991.
Two SNC executives and three others have been charged with “fraud, fraud against government, breach of trust, conspiracy, offering secret commissions and laundering the proceeds of crime” in connection with SNC-Lavalin’s $1.3-billion contract to build the now-delayed McGill University Hospital — charges that involve a mysterious transfer of $22.5-million from the company’s Tunisian subsidiary.
The Charbonneau commission has also been hearing allegations about SNC-Lavalin’s contributions to political parties involved in municipal, provincial and federal elections.
In fact, contributions to city politicians in both Montreal and neighbouring Longueuil allegedly led to the company secretly being awarded contracts even before some projects were publicly tendered.
As well, the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois together received around $1-million from SNC-Lavalin between 1998 and 2010, and it appears the company used the same donation scheme (wherein employees and members of their family make the maximum donations first and then get reimbursed with year-end bonuses) to provide at least three Conservative party riding associations with money during the 2011 federal election — even though one of those associations didn’t even field a candidate.
Fortunately, while Nalcor gave the main engineering, procurement and construction management contract to SNC-Lavalin long, long ago in 2010, following what they claim to have been a “competitive selection process,” there is as yet no proof, or as yet any indication that there will ever be proof, to substantiate growing suspicions that SNC-Lavalin made any improper payments to any politicians or public officials in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Yes, the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador can rest assured that despite appearances to the contrary, their government is not risking $7.4-billion and more of their hard-earned money by giving it to a company with a history of self-serving corruption — at least, any that has been proven.
Yes, we are all so, so lucky!
Michael Johansen is a writer
living in Labrador.