Last Wednesday, Mayor Gérald Tremblay cancelled the City’s $355 million water meter contract with the private consortium GÉNIeau. This move comes after a recommendation made last Tuesday by Montreal auditor general, Jacques Bergeron, to cancel the contract.
In the wake of the auditor general’s report, Tremblay fired the City’s general manager Claude Léger and the City’s director of corporate affairs, Robert Cassius de Linval.
At a news conference last Tuesday, Bergeron pointed out that the entire process had been, “too fast, too big, [and] too expensive.”
La Presse columnist Michèle Ouimet wrote in French about the incident last Wednesday.
“At the beginning the city simply wanted to install water meters in businesses, industries, and residences containing more than 12 lodgings. The bill: $32 million,” Ouimet wrote.
“The project got out of control, and the City found itself with a gold-plated contract, a luxury Cadillac, by adding a component: a sophisticated system that measures water pressure – a contract that goes over $618 million and will only generate $20 million in savings a year,” she wrote.
The massive contract was initially suspended last April amid allegations of conflict of interest. There was also an announcement by the Canada Revenue Agency that they were investigating Tony Accurso, a Montreal entrepreneur involved in the contract, for possible tax fraud.
Suspicions arose after it was revealed that the Frank Zampino, ex-president of the City’s executive committee and who the CBC called the Mayor’s “former right-hand man,” had been long time friends with Accurso, and vacationed on Accurso’s yacht during the bidding process.
Michel Parent, president of the City’s blue-collar worker’s union, expressed anger over the private contracts to the press last Tuesday. He insisted that instead of training hundreds of plumbers from private firms, the City could have used in-house plumbers.
“By contracting out the maintenance for a 15-year period, the City of Montreal would have completely lost its expertise, and would have been at the mercy of the private sector,” Parent told the media.
The Montreal Gazette reported in August that the contract had been changed “at the 11th hour,” so that the City would regain control of 30,500 water meters near the end of their functional life.