Thursday, 11 June 2015


Evidence that the hammer should be brought down on Nalcor continues to pile up. 

Ed Martin’s screening tool for contractors exhibits all the sophistication of Maxwell Smart; the bumbling Agent 86 in “Get Smart”. The 1960s comedy series is more likely to offer insight into Nalcor's behaviour and Ed Martin's utterances than any other interpretation of a rational and competent outfit managing the province's energy file.

As if the allegations in which SNC Lavalin is embroiled were not serious enough, the Nalcor CEO gives us Joe Borsellino, the master of memory tricks, who testified at the Charbonneau Commission Hearings into corruption into Quebec’s construction industry.

Borsellino’s faulty recall earned him disbelief from the presiding Madam Justice Charbonneau though, according to a CBC story, he still “acknowledged contact with organized crime.”

Borsellino’s company, Ophron Construction, was given a contract valued in the “$10-20 million range”.

Only “CONTROL”, presumably, the intelligence agency to whom Maxwell Smart answers, or its nemesis KAOS, is permitted to know the precise amount.

KAOS is not just metaphor. A well-known adage of the construction business is “CHAOS causes cash”.  Engineering and construction firms thrive on chaos; they rely upon bad management, engineering design errors, and incompetently worded tender specs to fatten their margins. 

There is a lot of chaos infecting the Muskrat Falls project right now. 

Just as harmful, Nalcor's information machine is constructed not to inform the public but to keep it in the dark; the public must not know that an organization bolstered by Danny Willliams and his three successors, including the current Premier, is fostering a program of deceit, evidence of which continues to grow. 

You know who will pay to straighten it out.

But, I digress.

Borsellino’s company is being sued by a large number of its sub-contractors who claim the contractor did not pay them.

In media interviews, Ed Martin suggested there is no evidence of any inappropriate activity involving Opron. Opron’s work on the project in Labrador is complete, and to Nalcor’s satisfaction, the Telegram reported him saying.

That only means Opron has little reason to be dissatisfied with its sub-contractors and they ought to have been paid.

Asked by the CBC why Opron wasn’t flagged by Nalcor, Martin said:

“…we did a thorough analysis we didn’t see…the names of the shareholder company in our review”.

As Maxwell Smart would say: “missed it by that much”!

Nalcor boasts an extensive “pre-qualification” process. Properly executed, it is a critical role, especially on a megaproject where maintaining the schedule is paramount. 

"Pre-qualification” establishes the contractor’s work history, safety record, management skills, financial strength, among a host of other corporate and human resource assets.

Not only is the process important to the Owner, it is part of the due diligence owed sub-contractors, too.  They expect the Owner to screen out contractors with weak financial records, outstanding lawsuits, and especially any company under a cloud.  This Nalcor pre-qualification process was surely a failure.

So, when Ed Martin tells reporters ‘we did a thorough analysis’ you hear a defensive, insecure man, not one conscious of his responsibility, or of the need that some house cleaning is long over due.

Let's listen, once more, to Ed Martin.

“In our situation, there’s basically no opportunity for one person to make a decision. You have to go, really, get through a series of levels and usually you’re talking at least eight to 10 to 12 people that have to approve this before it goes,” Ed Martin told the media. “…we know we have a very strong process…things that have happened elsewhere can’t happen here.” 

I don't know if its ego or ignorance that best explains such a boast.

I do know these are not the words of a thoughtful CEO; one relied upon to guide a large organization, one who needs to be capable of letting his staff know such missteps will not be tolerated. 

People need to know this is not just about the smokescreen that envelopes a project dreadfully behind schedule and over budget; a project already badly mismanaged.  This is the language of one who will say anything to maintain a construct: the image of Nalcor as "experts".

Is there perfection in the Vallard contract?.

A billion dollar job for the Labrador Island Transmission Line awarded without even pretense to public tendering; the “pre-qualification” process cancelled so that the contract could be given one Company.

Did the transaction involve a wink or a nod?

Definitely not. Why do we know?

Not because a process of selection was rigorously applied; certainly not one the public is permitted to scrutinize. 

We only know Vallard received that huge contract, on merit, because Ed Martin says so.

Of the Charbonneau Commission, Martin tells reporters: “We want to find out what went on there and take the learnings, anything that’s there, and certainly apply them here. If we can improve, we will”.

SNC Lavalin, the chief engineering, technical and financial architect of the Muskrat Falls project, is facing criminal charges. Though not yet proven, they are associated with corruption and money laundering involving work in Quebec, Libya, and Pakistan.In 2013, Vice-President Ben Aissa was in a Swiss Jail for his dealings with the Gaddafis. A Warrant was out for the arrest of Dr. Stephen Porter for corruption involving the Montreal Hospital construction.

When the news broke, in 2013, Jerome Kennedy reported that he called Ed Martin to see if we had anything to worry about.

As if to imitate Maxwell Smart, Ed picked up the phone and called SNC-Lavalin Chief, Pierre Duhaime. 

Should we be worried, he asks Pierre?

Pierre told Ed everything was fine.

A few weeks later…. Duhaine was led away in handcuffs, too.

After SNC Lavalin, you don't even monitor a publicly held inquiry into corruption from a place you are drawing a good many contractors and much of the materials, too?

You wind up with a Joe Borsellino and everything is perfectly fine? 

Nalcor clearly has no systems. Has it no integrity, too?

Dozens of contracts are awarded without tender. 

There's not even an independent oversight group to monitor the process and ensure the public purse protected.

There is no deference paid to issues of transparency or public accountability.

How gullible are we, really?

Whether people want to be reminded or not, this situation involves them. The media and the public are sleep-walking as a giant train, out of control, heads towards the village.

At some point, more of you are going to have to take notice that you are watching that train and failing to arrest its arrival.

Do justifications like things that have happened elsewhere can’t happen here” sound like a CEO mindful that even at the best of times things go wrong, that people often don't behave as they are expected

Real leadership at least acknowledges reality. 

When it doesn't and you already know much about Muskrat is not going well, amidst a non-existent tender process, problems both on the site and at head office, and when, in common parlance, "absolute bullshit" replaces worthy, accurate, and honest explanations, it is time to take note.

There is an odour inside the blue building that is Nalcor. This Scene from "GET SMART" may convey a bit of what I am thinking:

Maxwell Smart walks in to see “CONTROL” in shambles. He looks over and sees Bruce and Lloyd underneath a table.

Smart asks: Bruce! Lloyd! What happened here... and what is that ungodly smell? 

Lloyd replies, Max's that the smell of FEAR!

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