A contract worth nearly $8 million was awarded to Pomerleau Inc. to consolidate the suspension lines of the Pierre-Laporte bridge. (Archives)
Experts denounce the ambivalent discourse of Quebec about the safety of the Pierre-Laporte bridge and demand more transparency in the file.
On July 22, the Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ) bypassed the usual call for tenders process to award a contract worth nearly $8 million to Pomerleau Inc. in order to consolidate the suspension lines in poor condition of the Pierre-Laporte bridge. In this case, the MTQ therefore used an exception from section 13 of the Act respecting contracting by public bodies.
Even though Minister François Bonnardel repeated many times that the bridge remained safe despite the condition of the lines, Quebec nevertheless indicated that it feared for the safety of the people or property involved so as not to have to launch a call for tenders.
In June, the “Enquête” program revealed that, according to a report produced by the MTQ, the suspension lines of the Pierre-Laporte bridge were in poor condition. (Archives)
According to Nicholas Jobidon, expert in public procurement law and tendering from the National School of Public Administration (ENAP), the government is contradicting itself right now.
The government invokes this exception by saying that there is a danger for the safety of people and property, but on the other hand, they have said that there is no danger for the safety of people and goods. Obviously, there is a contradiction, he denounces.
Nicholas Jobidon is a professor at the National School of Public Administration. (Archives)
If the situation is safe, why enter into a contract without a call for tenders? What is the final interpretation of the Ministry of Transport of the question of emergency and the safety of people? Is it a pretext or is there really an urgency that justifies giving the contract without competition?, wonders, for her part, Me Martine Valois, professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Montreal.
We don't know what to believe, that's the problem […] We could have expected at least a press release, continues the lawyer and teacher.
In a statement, the Department of Transportation once again stuck to its guns.
The Minister has said it repeatedly: the bridge is safe. Even the engineers said so. As with any aging infrastructure, it is normal that work is required to ensure durability and that is what will be done. If the bridge was unsafe, it would be closed, the ministry said by email.
The situation thus leaves Ms. Valois and Mr. Jobidon speechless. The two experts do not want to judge the relevance of the work, but they are more critical of the way the ministry went about carrying it out.
When we wait for journalists find contracts in the public tender system that contradict the public message, this raises questions of transparency, even ethics, thinks Me Valois.
Martine Valois is a lawyer emeritus and associate professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Montreal. (Archives)
It raises questions about the legality of the decision to award the contract, adds Nicholas Jobidon.
According to the ENAP expert, there are several other options available to the MTQ to quickly award a contract to a company without resorting to the exception of section 13 of the Act respecting contracting by public bodies.
One of the exceptions in section 13 says that if the Department of Transport considers that it would not be in the public interest to tender, they can award the contract over-the-counter. […] Or they can go straight to the Council of Ministers to request an exception, says the expert.
With information from Raphaël Beaumont-Drouin< /em>