Manitoba NDP tried to keep $9M in untendered contracts under wraps, Tories say

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives are accusing the NDP government of trying to keep almost $9 million in untendered flood-protection equipment contracts under wraps.

Brian Pallister says information became available after NDP was caught breaking disclosure rules

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives are accusing the NDP government of trying to keep almost $9 million in untendered flood-protection equipment contracts under wraps 1:55

Manitoba's Progressive Conservatives are accusing the NDP government of trying to keep almost $9 million in untendered flood-protection equipment contracts under wraps.

The Tories' claim is the latest in an ongoing controversy over the NDP's bid to purchase Tiger Dams last year from a businessman with ties to Infrastructure Minister Steve Ashton, who handles the province's flood file.

Last year, a whistleblower alleged that Ashton's department committed to giving a $5-million untendered contract for the purchase of Tiger Dams.

The only company in Manitoba that sells Tiger Dams is controlled by Winnipeg businessman Peter Ginakes, who has contributed to Ashton's electoral campaigns in previous years.

Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister says his staff recently uncovered nine more untendered Tiger Dam contracts, totalling $8.7 million, that were issued between 2009 and 2014. (CBC)
Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister said Wednesday his staff recently uncovered nine more untendered Tiger Dam contracts, totalling $8.7 million, that were issued between 2009 and 2014.

Under the Financial Administration Act, the government is supposed to disclose all untendered contracts into a public database within 30 days.

However, Pallister said that disclosure was not made until Aug. 28.

The nine contracts in question were also connected to "the sole supplier for Tiger Dams in Manitoba," he said.
Manitoba Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Pallister says the government did not publicy report millions of dollars worth of untendered contracts for Tiger Dams, pictured above, until the opposition started asking questions about them. (CBC)

Pallister said it was only a result of his party's questions that the government has finally made the information publicly available — after, he said, it was caught breaking disclosure rules.

"It's a failure to shop smart, frankly. It's a failure of common sense. It's a failure to provide value," he told reporters in Winnipeg on Wednesday.

"You can't assure taxpayers of value if you haven't even tried to solicit competitive bids…. Most importantly, it's a massive failure of transparency."

The Tories added that during the same period, there was one tendered contract that went to another company, Aqua Dams, for $2.5 million in January 2011.

Tories 'nitpicking,' says NDP

Pallister noted that anyone who wants to read about the government's disclosure actually has to go to the Manitoba legislative library, as the information is currently not online.

Mineral Resources Minister Dave Chomiak says the NDP government will do a better job of informing Manitobans about untendered contracts. (CBC)
Ashton was not available for comment on Wednesday, but one of his colleagues, Mineral Resources Minister Dave Chomiak, accused the Tories of nitpicking.

Chomiak said the government will do a better job of informing Manitobans about untendered contracts.

"In a few weeks we'll be announcing an online system that will provide all this information so it's, again, nitpicking about something in the past," he said.

Manitoba's ombudsman is investigating how the government buys flood-fighting equipment, but the report is not expected until November at the earliest.

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