SECRECY AND THE NALCOR STATE

The following comments are not mine, though they mirror the
views expressed in The Nalcor State: A Clear and Present Danger.  Comments get placed on Uncle Gnarley Blog
or arrive by private email.  

The words speak to frustration with a Crown Corporation
engaged in high level secrecy and obfuscation and to a bewilderment as to why an
elected Government is complicit and approving of  Nalcor’s behaviour.  Equally, there is the realization that, while
the Government is blind, the public is offered no protection because Muskrat
Falls is exempt from review, even from an independent regulator like the PUB.
In the coming days, I will have more to say about
Nalcor.  I am very sceptical of those
whom Premier Dunderdale refers to as the “experts”.  I generally find that ‘experts’ are confident, capable
people and are more, not less,
likely to demonstrate their skills and display the limits of their capacity to accomplish their mission.  Because Nalcor is a publicly owned Agency, there is an obvious expectation that they will also demonstrate how they will to protect the public interest, recognizing
that every dollar spent is public money. Secrecy is the last thing this Province needs regarding Muskrat Falls.

For this instalment, you will see that other members of the
public also feel a need to be constantly on the trail of Nalcor.

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During
the 2013 AGM Ed Martin received questioning from Jim Morgan regarding the value
of the SNC Lavalin Contract. Ed Martin refused to disclose the value, citing
commercial sensitivity. Jim Morgan challenged Ed Martin lack of disclosure on
the contract value. Jim Morgan was right. There is no reason to not disclose
the value of this contract. It is not abnormal in industry to disclose contract
values. If Nalcor adhered to the publically tendering process, the values would
be required to be disclosed. Furthermore, SNC Lavalin as a company do not seem
to have an issue with public announcement of contract values. A short internet
search revealed the following:
1. Mine Tailings Project in Chile http://www.snclavalin.com/news.php?lang=en&id=1876
2. Power Plant in Poland http://www.snclavalin.com/news.php?lang=en&id=1950.
3.Transit Line in British Columbia http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2013/01/29/bc-evergreen-contract-snc-lavalin.html
4. Mining Project in Panama http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1139437/snc-lavalin-debooks-cobre-panama-project

Therefore the question must be asked if there is a standard clause in Nalcor’s
form of contract which precludes public disclosure of contract values? Was this
implemented by Nalcor, or at the request of SNC Lavalin? Who does not want this
information disclosed to the taxpayer and why?

All of this brings me to the biggest question of all. The entire project will
be recovered in the rate base of the island consumer. The budget has not been
approved by the regulator, and there is no oversight provided by the regulator.
The shareholders are unable to get access to information. I would suspect that
calls by the opposition in the House of Assembly would return similar results.
Who are minding the gatekeepers?

Signed: Anonymous

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From private email:

Jim Morgan asked about SNC Lavalin, how much money are they
being paid. He asked is it $50 million which is what he understood was the
figure given at last year’s AGM. He was told that the figure is higher than
$100 million. I also asked questions concerning this “cost-plus” contract,
specifically what percentage commission they are charging for their management,
engineering and procurement contract. Ed Martin refused to answer, saying the
information is all commercially sensitive. He won’t tell us the amount or the
percentage. He won’t tell us if the percentage is in line with industry
standards for project management. Is it ten percent, 20 percent, 50 percent?
 Ed Martin is not going to tell us. We don’t need to know. We have to
trust that Nalcor is acting in our best interest and protecting us. How many of
us are prepared to offer Nalcor our blind trust on faith alone?

Danny Dumaresque made a reasonable
request for the following information on all projects exceeding $50,000 each:
estimated cost, value of bids received and value of project awarded, along with
the identity of the bidders, including the winning bid. Again, this information
was refused as being “commercially sensitive”. It is interesting to note that
the disclosure practices of the provincial government (transportation, public
works, etc.) are more open than those of Nalcor. In fact NL Hydro discloses
more information on its various tendering activities than does Nalcor, its
parent company, on Muskrat Falls. The response to questions, sent to Nalcor, in
advance of the AGM and are totally inadequate (yet)…. Nalcor is getting away
with this and patting itself on the back (as if) no questions were left
unanswered!!!!

Signed: David Vardy

Former Clerk of the Executive Council

Former Chairman, Public Utilities Board

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These views require no additional editorial comment.  Perhaps, others will express their own. If you have a contrarian view, you may wish to share it, too; all views are welcome on Uncle Gnarley Blog.

Look for additional Posts, relating to Nalcor,
in the coming days. 
 
Des Sullivan
Uncle Gnarley Blog
 
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.

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