Anti-corruption crusader Jacques Duchesneau has been named the inspector-general of Saint-Jérôme, in charge of a new unit investigating the awarding and management of contracts in the Laurentians municipality.
The official announcement of the creation of the Bureau d'intégrité professionnelle et administrative (BIPA) and Duchesneau's role was revealed at a news conference Monday afternoon. In that new role, Duchesneau, 68, will also serve as the deputy director of the Saint-Jérôme police service.
"The BIPA, in my opinion, is the most apt response to restore public trust with our institutions," said Duchesneau.
Investigation prompts creation of unit
The creation of BIPA comes after an investigation by the Journal de Montréal revealed corruption and collusion related to the awarding of contracts to four major engineering firms over an eight-year period in Saint-Jérôme, 60 kilometres northwest of Montreal.
The report details a former director of the city's engineering services testimony before the disciplinary council of Quebec's order of engineers in late 2016. He outlined an elaborate system that ensured that the same four firms were awarded municipal contracts — sometimes decided on even before calls for tenders were launched.
The revelations forced the city to act quickly and create the unit, said Mayor Stéphane Maher.
"The measures we're introducing today are not temporary. This is a permanent unit," Maher said.
The city is setting aside at least $1 million annually for BIPA, in the hope of recovering $10 to 15 million.
That will pay for the team of seven employees investigate fraud, collusion and corruption in the awarding of contracts over the past 20 years at the municipal level.
BIPA will collaborate with the province's anti-corruption unit, UPAC.
Duchesneau's many roles
As inspector-general, Duchesneau can recommend to city council to cancel a contract if he finds any irregularities.
"It would be frowned upon to say no," said Maher.
Duchesneau will oversee the work of BIPA, which is composed of lawyers and investigators. He is also to work alongside the inspectors-general of Laval and Montreal and to collaborate with other municipal police forces.
Duchesneau said his many roles, specifically as deputy director of the police force, will allow him to work efficiently and have access to the information he needs.
A former Montreal police chief, Duchesneau is credited with forcing Jean Charest's Liberal government to call a corruption inquiry into Quebec's construction industry after leaking a 2011 report he had authored for Quebec's Transport Ministry which concluded corruption and collusion within the ministry was widespread and entrenched.
Fired shortly after going public with that report, Duchesneau became a star candidate for Coalition Avenir Québec, elected MNA in the riding of Saint-Jérôme in the 2012 provincial election. Duchesneau chose not to seek re-election and left politics in 2014.