Opposition Leader Brian Pallister is slamming the NDP for what he calls an overuse of untendered contracts in the province.

The Manitoba PC leader says there's an "epidemic" of awarding contracts to companies without a competitive bidding process by government departments and crown corporations.

"There's no way to prove if you're getting value for money from an untendered contract," Pallister said.

"We've been strong advocates … of smarter shopping by government."

His comments were prompted by a CBC investigation that revealed Manitoba Hydro awarded consulting company Tetra Tech an $85 million contract without a public bidding process.

The number of untendered contracts in Manitoba is cringe-worthy, said Pallister. The PC leader said danger posed by the practice is compounded because contracts are secret and not opened up for public scrutiny.

"The government has violated its own laws under the Financial Administration Act," said Pallister.


In question period Premier Greg Selinger accused the PCs of wanting to privatize Manitoba Hydro. (Courtesy of Shaw TV)

Bruce Owen, a spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro, said in 2012 prior to the contract being awarded to Tetra Tech, the crown corporation issued an expression of interest for construction management services and six companies responded.

"Tetra Tech back in October 2012 was deemed the superior source of the expertise and talent we required," Owen said to CBC.

Four of the other companies that expressed interest in the contract were deemed unsuitable, three due to conflict of interest concerns and one didn't have the appropriate expertise. Owen did not specify why Hydro did not consider the fifth remaining company or why hydro didn't issue a request for proposals (RFP).

"We wanted to have Tetra Tech, the right management services in place," Owen said, "[because] Manitoba Hydro knew it would be building Keeyask, Bipole III and a number of other larger projects."

Most Hydro contracts tendered, says NDP

In question period, Premier Greg Selinger said 95 per cent of Manitoba Hydro contracts are tendered.

"Every public dollar matters, there's no question about that," Selinger said.

The premier blasted back at the PCs and accused the party of wanting to privatize Manitoba Hydro as the party did with Manitoba Telephone System (MTS) in the 1990s which Selinger said resulted in higher carrier costs for cell phone users in the province.

"We won't do the ultimate tendering, we won't be privatizing Manitoba Hydro," said Selinger.

"We're building Manitoba Hydro for the future — the member opposite wants to slice and dice it and privatize it."

Under a PC government, Manitoba would "reduce" the number of single-source contracts awarded by the province and crown corporations, Pallister said.

"There's no way to prove if you're getting value for money from an untendered contract," he said.