Pre­mier peeved

Ball de­mands an­swers from Nal­cor about Muskrat Falls con­trac­tors

The Western Star - - Close to Home - BY JAMES MCLEOD THE TELE­GRAM jm­cleod@thetele­gram.com

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.

TELE­GRAM FILE PHOTO

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