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Auditor dives deep on Muskrat Falls project overruns

Members of the Labrador Land Protectors hold signs outside the public hearings for the Muskrat Falls Inquiry on Monday at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as the hearings prepare to dive into the project’s construction costs. The group includes (from left) Eldred Davis, Jim Learning and John Learning.
Members of the Labrador Land Protectors hold signs outside the public hearings for the Muskrat Falls Inquiry on Monday at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as the hearings prepare to dive into the project’s construction costs. The group includes (from left) Eldred Davis, Jim Learning and John Learning. - Ashley Fitzpatrick

New report, passionate testimony mark resumption of hearings

Daily hearings of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry began again Monday at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

In opening comments, inquiry co-counsel Barry Learmonth said more than five million documents have been archived for the review of the hydroelectric project.

Not all events from the construction are to be covered in detail during the inquiry. Specific events, considered particularly relevant, will be highlighted and focused on for questions.

Justice Richard LeBlanc said he doesn’t believe there’s an expectation, or ability, to review every minute of activity.

Chief Jean-Charles Piétacho of the Conseil des Innu de Ekuanitshit proceeded with testimony in Innu, reiterating his disappointment at common language barriers. He described shortcomings in communication, and consideration, by Nalcor Energy, as well as the provincial and federal governments, since the time of the project’s original consultations.

Auditor Scott Shaffer, with Grant Thornton, began testimony on a new report to the inquiry examining cost increases as the project progressed. He testified the identified project contingency was spent within four months of sanctioning.

“By April 2013, Nalcor should have known the contingency was exhausted,” his report states, in one of many points made on cost.

Shaffer looked more closely at some larger contract packages, noting differences between estimates and reality. In speaking about Astaldi Canada’s work, as an example, he noted concrete pouring at Muskrat Falls got off to a slow start but improved dramatically after 2014. While improving, it never reached the rates that would have been required to meet the original contract. Out of 57 months, beginning in November 2013, the originally planned rate to meet the construction schedule was reportedly met nine times.

The auditor reported a copy of the 2013 risk assessment document from SNC-Lavalin was specifically not requested from that company by a member of the Nalcor Energy project team, who knew about it. There’s no evidence the report ended up in Nalcor Energy hands, but the audit suggested contents of the report were discussed in detail by Nalcor personnel.

The Telegram will be providing highlights from the inquiry’s daily hearings, in addition to feature items and in-depth coverage, to serve our subscribers. All coverage is collected online at thetelegram.com.


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