Pat Hussey knows about tensions arising between Nalcor Energy’s Muskrat Falls project leads and SNC-Lavalin in the early stages of the hydro megaproject.
As supply chain manager, he was working on the project since at least 2007 and directly with SNC-Lavalin’s people, and was troubled by their early start on project work.
Hussey testified at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry on Friday on the selection of SNC-Lavalin, originally as an engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contractor, and to the later change to an “integrated management team.”
He said the company had too many skilled people tied up on other projects, and others with needed skills who would not come to Newfoundland and Labrador. The company was not filling high-level positions fast enough.
There was also disconnect between SNC-Lavalin’s engineering and procurement staff, he said.
“I couldn’t understand for the life of me,” Hussey said, testifying pieces of work that had to be done for procurement to proceed had started to fall behind.
“They had a real bad start getting off and setting up the project,” he said Friday.
Several individuals from SNC-Lavalin are scheduled to testify at the inquiry at the end of March, although the current schedule is subject to change.
It’s on the record that Nalcor Energy did change its agreements with SNC-Lavalin and moved to an integrated management team. SNC-Lavalin was then no longer responsible for all the key staffing.
“When we integrated, what we did then is we opened up the sources of where we could get resources and, I mean, we went everywhere that we knew where there were people,” Hussey said.
“Hatch provided some people, Amec, more agencies started showing up in St. John’s, so we used them. We reached out to people that we knew from previous jobs, and SNC were always given the position and the job and they could fill it as well, and they provided résumés. They were all looked at together and the best person was picked for the job. And we managed to staff up and get where we are now,” he said.
While on the stand, Hussey outlined the process of developing a package for bidding, seeking bidders, reviewing bids and following through with procurement for contractors as required.
He had worked on megaprojects before, but in the oil and gas sector. He worked on securing drilling equipment, topsides fabrication and process equipment. He didn’t have hydroelectric megaproject experience going into the Muskrat Falls project, but did not accept a suggestion he wasn’t qualified for this job.
Lawyer Geoff Budden with the Concerned Citizens Coalition noted Hussey’s background is in commerce, just as Budden’s is in law.
“I would suggest to you while you may get a tour of a power plant, just as I might, you’re not looking at it through the eyes of an engineer,” Budden said, leading into a question to Hussey on how long he felt it took to get up to speed.
“I’m not an engineer, but I had engineers side-by-side with me,” he responded.
“Where my expertise comes is in the manufacturing of this equipment. I know how things get manufactured. I know what goes into it. I know about their ordering of raw materials, their design, their supplier management. That’s what I bring to the table. And the engineer is there to understand the technical part and give me the briefing that I need to understand that,” he said, adding he didn’t ever feel disadvantaged.
Hussey was also not on the quality assurance team. While he made trips to different manufacturing facilities as part of the bid assessment and procurement process, he pointed out later in the day there were third-party companies called in to provide regular quality-control checks, reporting to Nalcor project management and making site visits with them at times.
With the conclusion of Hussey’s testimony, the inquiry will take a break for almost two weeks, to allow for additional research and interviews by the inquiry staff. The next scheduled public hearing day is March 15 at the Beothuk Building in St. John’s. The day will see a workers’ panel, including Larry Cavaliere, Ed Knox, Perry Snook and Ken White.