Vaudreuil-Dorion has awarded a nearly $20-million contract to enlarge its water filtration plant to a company once affiliated with controversial construction magnate Tony Accurso.
Accurso is the one of the main names that continues to come up in the Charbonneau Commission into corruption in the construction industry. He was arrested by the RCMP in August 2012 and charged, along with a handful of former Canada Revenue Agency employees, with conspiracy, fraud, forgery and breach of trust by a public officer.
Formed earlier this year, Groupe Hexagone is the result of a $150-million buyout of Accurso’s firms Louisbourg SBC and Gautier. It is the biggest construction firm in Quebec with 2,500 employees. Five out of six of the company’s directors were vice-presidents of Accuro-linked firms, including his sons, James and Marco.
The company had the lowest bid at $19 million, said Vaudreuil-Dorion assistant general manager Martin Houde. The second-lowest tender was Céleb Construction at $19.2 million, while Socomec Industriel from Sorel came in third with a bid of $19.3 million.
That was significantly lower the city’s original estimate of $22.5 million to enlarge the building and to more than double the plant’s capacity, Houde said.
“There is no legal reason to not award the contract to this company, which had the lowest bid and conforms to all specifications,” Houde said.
Céleb Construction president Stéfann Bélec said as far as he knows, the process was managed well by the city.
“I find it frustrating that anyone can participate under any name,” Bélec said.
He said if all the rules were followed, he has no objection to the fact Hexagone was awarded the contract.
Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon said the city had no choice but to award the contract to Hexagone, because rules in place oblige cities to accept the lowest submissions that conform to specifications.
“We don’t have any choice,” Pilon said. “This is a legal company, and they had the lowest bid, so we have to accept the lowest bid.”
While Accurso’s companies were forced to stop doing business in the public sphere, Pilon said he expects Hexagone will be permitted to continue operating, since the company already received approval from the Autorité des marchés financiers to begin operations.
“I don’t think they want to start a company in a bad way,” he said. “They’ll probably make sure they have good results the first time around, because everyone knows the name.”
Groupe Hexagone has made several public statements indicating it wishes to follow the letter and spirit of the law.
About a week after it was formed, the company suspended one of its employees, who was arrested in a sweep by UPAC, Quebec’s anti-corruption squad.
At the time, the company said in a statement this was a strong signal to all its employees as well as potential partners that it wishes to remain transparent and take advantage of the company’s clean slate.
Pilon said the companies submitting bids were all asked to insure their bids so if there is a problem, the insurance company can mandate another firm to complete the work.
Pilon said the city will make sure the company performs to normal standards.
“We’re going to follow this company like all the others to make sure we have a good job and good results at the end,” he said.
He said despite stories of kickbacks between the city of Montreal and Accurso-led companies, the city of Vaudreuil-Dorion is clean.
“I never accepted a penny from anyone and I won’t start,” Pilon said. “It’s not the mayor of Vaudreuil-Dorion that awards contracts. There’s a committee that follows rules from the government, and there is no politician on the committee.”
Pilon added that it appears the Charbonneau Commission is having an effect in the contracts awarded by the city. Aside from the water filtration contract, several contracts for repaving roads have also come in way under the city’s estimates.
“The prices we’ve seen are the best prices we ever had,” Pilon said.