Witnesses say collusion difficult to monitor
Charbonneau Commission told engineer shortage mars corruption monitoring
A severe shortage of competent engineers at Quebec's Transport Department left it ill-equipped to detect and prevent corruption, a public inquiry heard Monday.
Jacques Duchesneau said engineers who work for the province are often young, inexperienced and lack the proper educational background.
To make matters worse, he said, they often find themselves dealing with former superiors who've jumped to the private sector.
Senior employees would jump straight to higher-paying jobs at firms that were bidding on government contracts, he said.
"People left the department and, the next week, they were already with private firms. This caused a problem on the ethical front, at the very least, and reduced expertise," said Duchesneau, a former Montreal police chief and federal transportation-safety official.
Testifying at Quebec's corruption inquiry, Duchesneau said there was so much paperwork to do, engineers didn't have time to go actual sites as often as they'd like. Duchesneau said the shortage of government expertise has also forced municipalities to use private engineering firms, which often suggest work that isn't necessary.
As for the background of employees hired by the Transport Department, he said it somtimes left a little to be desired. Instead of civil engineers, he said, the government was hiring the wrong types of experts.
"They went to get engineers with different specialties not necessarily linked to infrastructure. Whether it's electrical engineering, computer engineering," said Duchesneau, who most recently authored an anti-corruption report for the province.
"There was even a case of one nuclear engineer."
Duchesneau was testifying for a third day, accompanied by two of his former employees who are discussing cases of collusion between entrepreneurs or a lack of competition in bidding.
Last week, he told the inquiry that the provincial transport minister seemed bored and indifferent to his findings on corruption.
Sam Hamad, who was transport minister at the time, told reporters that he found such recollections puzzling — given that the Charest government had moved to implement all of Duchesneau's recommendations.
The commission will continue hearing Duchesneau for the rest of the week before adjourning until mid-September.