Leave it to the AG
What if it gets to the point of throwing good money after bad?
Recently, a former Muskrat Falls engineer suggested to CBC News that the project should undergo a forensic audit. His argument was that the numbers used to justify the project were unrealistic from the start, and that there should be a reckoning for how we got from project launch to huge cost overruns and scheduling delays.
The argument’s clear: the people who will wind up paying for overruns — power users in this province — deserve answers for the mess that is Muskrat.
Other opponents of the project have since made the same arguments, and the provincial NDP has endorsed the suggestion.
We’ve questioned the Muskrat Falls project for years. Telegram columnists pointed out when the project was first proposed that it was of a size and type that no existing Nalcor staff had ever undertaken, and that while a series of informed assumptions had been made to argue for the project, some, if not all, of those projections might turn out to be wrong.
Many were cataclysmically wrong: oil prices fell significantly, the project’s costs ballooned, the price of export energy dropped precipitously; the list goes on.
Those backing a forensic audit argue the work would ensure we never make a similar mistake; on an ancillary basis, it would show us who made decisions and let us know who knew about the true state of the project, and when. It’s valuable information, but at what price? It’s hard to imagine that any provincial government would be in a hurry to fall into the same kind of catastrophe. Pride goeth before a fall, and the fall here has been so significant, it’s hard to imagine there’s enough pride left to upholster a footstool.
A forensic audit will be another bill added to ratepayers’ expenses, and will not recover any of the money spent.
If there was clear evidence that anyone was unjustly or improperly rewarded — think theft, graft or corruption — then a forensic audit would be an integral part of what would be needed to lay charges.
At the moment, though, overweening political pride is not a crime.
The province’s auditor general is well able to examine the project to see if there was, in fact, criminal behaviour. His office has the tools, and should be allowed the access. Full access. If someone has been made rich, or if crimes have been committed, then full speed ahead. Audit it to shreds.
Right now, that seems to be the approach the Liberal government is taking.
It is not one that will give us all the answers. It’s not one, likely, that will ensure that blame ends up where it deserves to be directed.
But how much more blame can we afford?