Ball demands answers from Nalcor about Muskrat Falls contractors
Premier Dwight Ball has formally written to the chairman of the Nalcor Energy board of directors demanding answers about the Crown corporation’s use of consultants on the management team of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
Ball expressed concern at a recent report in The Telegram that “embedded contractors” working at hourly rates make up about 90 per cent of the Muskrat Falls project management team, and collectively those contractors have invoiced for almost 4.6 million hours.
“I understand Nalcor have refused to disclose the billing rates of the aforementioned contracts on the basis that they are commercially sensitive. As you can understand, this situation raises concerns for many members of the public,” Ball wrote to Nalcor board chairman Brendan Paddick.
Ball has previously told the media that he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for Nalcor to keep the cost of these embedded contractors secret from the public, and he repeated that point in his letter to Paddick.
“As you are aware, Nalcor’s board of directors have a fiduciary obligation to the shareholders of the corporation; that is, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Ball wrote. “While I concede that the intense political scrutiny surrounding Nalcor may be seen as problematic for those more accustomed to a typical corporate climate, as premier of this province I absolutely endorse openness and transparency as it is a hallmark of any functioning democracy.”
This is especially significant because Nalcor has refused to disclose the billing rates of embedded contractors when The Telegram made a formal access to information request earlier this year.
The Telegram has appealed this request to the independent Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, and if Nalcor wants to keep the information secret, the Energy Corporation Act requires Paddick and the Nalcor board to formally certify that the billing rates of contractors is indeed commercially sensitive information.
The Telegram requested a comment from Paddick, but didn’t receive a response by deadline.
In Ball’s letter, he specifically put two questions to the Nalcor board.
First, Ball asked, “Can the board of directors justify the management structure at Muskrat Falls as providing the best value to the province? Would the current board have approved the structure as it is currently in place?”
Separately, Ball asked, “Can the board of directors justify to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador exactly how the billing rates for embedded contractors are commercially sensitive?”
In an interview last week, Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall said some of the professional services consultants working on the project actually have signing authority to approve invoices and payments to other contractors.
The Muskrat Falls project is currently behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
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