Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady is checking with officials in her department to see whether the government and Nalcor Energy have been breaking the law for the past nine years.
Coady said she needed to look into the situation after New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael raised questions about an obscure section of the Energy Corporation Act in question period in the House of Assembly Monday.
Michael pointed out that the law requires a report to be filed by Nalcor Energy to the minister every six months detailing all sorts of procurement.
“(Nalcor) and its subsidiaries shall report to the minister on their procurement activities and shall include a summary of contracts entered into and the identities of suppliers to whom the contracts have been awarded every 6 months,” the Energy Corporation Act says.
The law also says that the minister must make this information public by tabling the reports in the House of Assembly.
“I don’t think it’s ever been really literally tabled in the House of Assembly,” Coady told reporters later.
Coady said that it might not be a big deal, because when it comes to Muskrat Falls, Nalcor has been providing monthly progress updates, and details of all awarded contracts are supposed to be online.
But the contracts posted online don’t seem to include so-called “embedded contractors” — the consultants who make up roughly 90 per cent of the Muskrat Falls project management team, who cost the corporation on average $908 per day.
The Telegram has been investigating the issue of embedded contractors, who are not technically considered to be Nalcor employees, and therefore their salaries don’t get disclosed, even though they often work full-time for Nalcor for several years, working a regular desk in Nalcor’s offices.
Michael pressed the point, “I will make it very clear again, the legislation says that Nalcor and all subsidiaries will report on their procurement activities and shall include a summary of contracts entered into and the identities of suppliers. An individual embedded contract is a supplier of a service and should be identified, have they demanded that identification and if so why is it not made public?”
Coady said she had to look into it.
“I personally believe openness and transparency is very important, so I’m going back to see what the interpretation of the legislation has been, and why it has been that way,” she said.
But all of this is just about Muskrat Falls, which is only one Nalcor subsidiary. When asked about whether she’s been getting twice-a-year reports from the other Nalcor subsidiaries — the oil and gas division, the Bull Arm fabrication site, and more — Coady said she wasn’t sure.
“They likely go to the department. I’ll check on that for you,” she said. “I don’t recall seeing them on my desk — procurement specifically — so I’ll check on that for you.”
On Monday, Coady was also asked about a blog post written by energy critic Des Sullivan, who reported major problems with the Muskrat Falls transmission line towers from Labrador to St. John’s.
Sullivan said that he got info from an anonymous source who said that “the structural integrity of a selection of 30 towers was tested recently. The tests produced a failure rate of 100%.”
Coady emphatically disputed that report.
“No structural integrity issues were found. I’m going to repeat that: no structural integrity issues were found,” she said.
“That means there’s no cost implications, no time or schedule implications and no safety implications. There were some minor deficiencies — as you would expect in an inspection of that sort — and they’re being worked through, but no structural integrity issues at all.”