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Letter: Premier should have Muskrat Falls project audited — now

Published on July 22, 2017

While Premier Dwight Ball refuses to endorse a Muskrat Falls project audit, release project oversight committee reports spanning 20 months in office, or produce a final EY report, his parliamentary secretary has published a letter that raises even more questions that need answers. 

Mark Browne’s letter, published July 11, refers to the SNC-Lavalin 2013 risk assessment report of the project‎, allegedly uncovered by Nalcor’s current CEO. Stan Marshall recently stated that this “internal” SNC-Lavalin document came into his possession about a year ago. But interestingly, our premier has stated the report came into his own possession only weeks ago. So, one would conclude the CEO of the largest Crown corporation in our province held such a report for over a year before releasing to the premier, minister of Natural Resources, cabinet and the chair and board of directors of Nalcor?

In all that time, did the Nalcor CEO never discuss with anyone in the Liberal government — until weeks ago — this independent assessment of project risks that he says he had in his possession?

Some questions:

Who saw the SNC-Lavalin document, and when?

When was the Natural Resources minister made aware of it?

When was the Nalcor chair advised of document and when did the remaining Nalcor board members see that document?

In all that time, did the Nalcor CEO never discuss with anyone in the Liberal government — until weeks ago — this independent assessment of project risks that he says he had in his possession?

Does the premier believe it was appropriate for information of this importance to be withheld from government by the Nalcor CEO?

What we need is an independent investigation of the paper trail and flow of information from the time report was prepared, allegedly presented to Nalcor staff, found its way to government and Nalcor’s board, and ultimately to a press conference, where only days after, the story on how it came to be in existence and who saw it, began to change.
Browne also seems to be referring to an assessment of the costs to be considered in cancelling the project. Was such an assessment done? Has he seen it? If completed, should it not be made public?

Browne references project cost estimates ranging from $6.2 billion to $12.7 billion, and implies the original estimates were “sold to the people,” which seems to imply inaccurate information was supported. If such information exists, should this not be made immediately available? Does he have information to prove the original estimates were incorrect?‎ The Liberals are standing in the way of the independent audit that would answer the question. 

What cost escalation has happened in the past 20 months related to the project? We were told months ago by the new CEO to expect no big surprises or cost overruns, only to be told months later the costs have risen by more than a billion dollars.

And recently, we learned of a letter from a Nalcor contractor alleging that Nalcor may have been responsible for the flooding of Mud Lake‎, which — if true — could mean additional huge costs. 

The premier and his Natural Resources minister have refused to release project ‎oversight committee reports produced during the 20 months they have been in office. Yet, they are making serious allegations without providing the evidence to back up their claims. If they are indeed correct, let us see the supporting documentation. Better yet, let an independent audit find it or not, and tell us the real details.

Interesting to note, based on all of the above, that following the appointment of the new CEO of Nalcor, no staffing changes were made to the senior executive, the project manager of Muskrat Falls, or any of the engineering, accounting, safety or other departments of Nalcor. If, as alleged by Browne and others, the original numbers for Muskrat Falls project were inaccurate, these would be the same people that were involved in the process to sanction and the staff the current CEO endorsed as fully competent.

There is a fiduciary and moral obligation to release all information in their possession without further delay to back up all of the statements that are being made by the premier, the Natural Resources minister, the Nalcor CEO and Browne. 

The Official Opposition challenges the premier to commission a thorough independent audit of the Muskrat Falls project immediately, ‎without any further delays, and to ensure the audit covers the period from the inception of the project to the present day, so that all of the facts will be brought to light. 

 

Keith Hutchings, MHA Ferryland
Official Opposition critic for natural resources