Alleged kickback scheme ‘not the way things are done’: Ottawa Construction Association

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Emma Jackson
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Allegations of lavish kickbacks in return for contracts at The Ottawa Hospital are “very isolated,” says one industry expert.

A Jan. 5, 2015 lawsuit alleges a pair of former hospital directors conspired with contractors on a secret kickback scheme.

Allegations of lavish kickbacks in return for contracts at The Ottawa Hospital are “very isolated,” says one industry expert.

“I’ve been here 17 years and I’ve never seen a lawsuit filed like that,” said John DeVries, president of the Ottawa Construction Association.

Four local contractors were named in a civil lawsuit this week alleging they offered two hospital managers free fishing trips, cars and home renos in return for favouritism on hospital contracts.

“Its just not the way things are done in Ottawa,” Mr. DeVries said.

He said a story like this “reflects poorly on the whole industry.”

“Which is sad, because it’s really such a one-off, it doesn’t happen,” Mr. DeVries said.

The lawsuit alleges that GAL Power and DRS Construction in particular were allowed to choose and exclude their competitors for various contracts, get advanced copies of procurement documents and manipulate pricing to make sure their bids always won. The allegations have yet to be proven in court.

Mr. DeVries said a big part of his job as president of the association is to advocate for transparent and fair bidding processes - a lofty goal in an era of pre-qualification and subjective scoring systems, he said.

“Someone has to sit down and say, ‘I’m going to give him three out of five and him four out of five, and they both look pretty comparable,” Mr. DeVries explained.

That’s why former hospital planning director Frank Medwenitsch, the hospital employee at the centre of the scandal, shouldn’t have been operating in a silo, he said.

“There should be a buyer rep, a consultant rep, an architect, a whole team of people,” he said.

A statement of defence has not yet been filed.

This article originally appeared on metronews.ca on Jan. 7.

Organizations: Ottawa Construction Association

Geographic location: Ottawa

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