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LETTER: Not enough accountability at Nalcor

Hydro Place in St. John's. File photo
Nalcor’s headquarters at Hydro Place in St. John's. — Telegram file photo

For the past two years I have been questioning the government and raising concerns, both inside and outside the House of Assembly, regarding accountability at Nalcor, and there is much for the corporation to be accountable for.

This narrative begins in January 2014 when one of Nalcor’s subsidiaries, NL Hydro, was unable to execute on its core mandate of keeping the lights on in an event which would be dubbed #Dark NL. And whether you felt it was a “crisis” or not, the bottom line is that it led to much havoc throughout our province, including the evacuation of seniors from nursing homes, flooding of properties, spoiling of food and even a fatality.

Of course, we would later be informed through a report by Liberty Consulting that the root cause of this unfortunate event was a failure to conduct basic equipment maintenance. Yet instead of heads rolling, everyone in the executive suites received their full performance bonuses justified by their “good safety record.”

This narrative begins in January 2014 when one of Nalcor’s subsidiaries, NL Hydro, was unable to execute on its core mandate of keeping the lights on in an event which would be dubbed #Dark NL.

Fast forward to the Muskrat Falls project which has doubled in cost, with project timelines out the window. Contained within this story are revelations emanating from the Muskrat Falls Inquiry of intentional low-balling of cost estimates and the hiding of risk reports. Surely these matters would warrant further investigation by the authorities, consideration of civil litigation options or at the very least a comprehensive human resource review to determine if we are dealing with a case of negligence and/or incompetence warranting the issuance of pink slips.

So, the first opportunity to test our government’s resolve in holding Nalcor officials accountable occurred in 2016 as the former CEO parted ways with Nalcor. Given the fact that he held the top job at Nalcor and was the face and voice of the Muskrat Falls project, one would think that if there was ever anyone who would have to answer for the decisions made and results that emanated from those decisions, then it would be him. However, the premier — instead of standing up for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and sending a strong message about the need to hold individuals accountable for their actions — allowed the CEO to simply walk away, along with a cheque for approximately $6 million in severance payments.

In a similar fashion, recently we learned from the current CEO of Nalcor that the chief financial officer will also be given a golden handshake and let go without cause, in recognition of his years of service and role in the “fiscal management” of Nalcor, including the Muskrat Falls project.

While there may indeed be certain legally binding contractual requirements at play, this is without doubt a troubling trend and a slap in the face to the ratepayers of our province. I therefore call upon the premier to advise the people of the following:

  • Why isn’t government doing anything to ensure accountability for those directly involved in the “management” of Muskrat Falls project?
  • What would you have to do to be fired with cause?
  • What is his justification for allowing two top Nalcor executives to part ways, without cause, and with full compensation, despite their direct involvement in the Muskrat Falls debacle? Also, please advise us of the differential in the payouts to these individuals had they been removed with cause as opposed to without.
  • What measures does government plan on implementing in future employment contracts to ensure executives are held accountable for their decisions?
  • Why does he refuse to make an amendment to the Energy Corporation Act to allow a greater role for the Privacy Commissioner in determining what information can be publicly released by Nalcor?
  • Finally, if he doesn’t have the courage to deal with Nalcor, will he step down and allow someone to take the helm who does?

Paul Lane, Independent MHA

Mount Pearl-Southlands

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