Sun, October 3, 2004
Public servants accused of cooking the books when awarding a $1-billion federal contract were asked by an internal investigator to take a polygraph test. The highly unusual request was included in notes from Public Works investigator Michel Genest that were obtained by the Sun under the Access to Information Act.
Genest grilled each member of the selection committee responsible for picking Royal LePage Relocation to move 12,000 soldiers and RCMP officers, and asked if they'd be willing to take a lie-detector test, according to the documents.
Their answers were deleted from the handwritten notes by Public Works' access officers, who cited privacy reasons. They took more than one year to release the report.
The selection committee came under fire when it was revealed some of its members accepted gifts -- ranging from sweaters to a free cruise from Royal LePage Relocation -- before handing the real estate giant the lucrative $1-billion contract.
Genest's probe wrapped up last fall as the Canadian International Trade Tribunal ordered the feds to reopen bidding on the contract, ruling that public servants had played favourites.
A source familiar with the investigation said in 2002, when the department re-evaluated the bids for the five-year contract on the instructions of the trade tribunal, Royal LePage was not the clear winner.
Public Works officials heavily edited Genest's draft and final report, blanking out complete pages dealing with allegations of kickbacks.
Even the investigators' recommendations were omitted.
Officials did leave a few lines in the report on allegations that members of the selection committee had sabotaged Envoy Relocations' bid by removing a key document.
Envoy said a copy of the document was in its possession, and questioned how the federal government could be missing it.
Genest's report noted that the selection committee realized the document was missing and dinged Envoy's bid because of it.
Public servants told Genest it took them eight days to wade through the bids of five real estate companies competing for the lucrative contract. That's 96 boxes of documents.
"Evaluation committee did the review in eight days, almost impossible to do," Genest wrote in a note.
Public Works is expected to announce the new winner of the relocation contract in the near future.
Royal LePage initially won the 1998 contract to set up a system to move soldiers and RCMP officers. The value of the deal was tripled from the original $132 million shortly after it was awarded.