Auditor general brings Vancouver tourism officials under corruption scanner

Published on : Thursday, November 28, 2013

QUEBEC CITYQUEBEC CITY – The blame game has started as charges of corruption has cropped up. On Wednesday, the province’s interim auditor-general, Michel Samson, blamed directors at the CHUM and Tourism Montreal for living the good life at taxpayers’ expense. Though this is a natural phenomenon in most of the coutries, Canada has npt been too familiar with smething like this.

Samson honed in on Charles Lapointe, the former head of Tourism Montreal who retired last summer. He said Lapointe lived a life of luxury: free cars, five-star hotels and a generous severance package with promise of a secretary, office space and future consulting contracts. Samson looked at the last three years of Lapointe’s management. He described Lapointe’s base salary of $400 000 as excessive, and higher than the highest-paid bureaucrat in the Quebec government.

“For sure the board didn’t play its role and it’s an inappropriate use of public funds,” Samson said.

Tourism Montreal is 75 per cent funded by the Quebec government. Lapointe recently agreed to pay back $72 000. But that’s not enough for Tourism Minister Pascal Bérubé, who has now called in Revenue Quebec.

“We’re pretty upset, we’re shocked because there’s public money,” he said.

PQ ministers said the board should have sounded the alarm.

“In Montreal in particular there were decisions that were not made correctly and the people who should answer are the members of the board,” said the minister responsible for Montreal, Jean-François Lisée.

That’s just part of what the auditor general uncovered. Samson told reporters CHUM director-general Christian Paire received $70 000 more in salary than what was permitted by law. Paire also granted contracts by mutual agreement instead of calling for tenders. Health Minister Rejean Hebert renewed Paire’s contract even after irregularities were found.

“Nobody asked questions to the directors, the people on the board of the CHUM. I think it’s about time we change these people,” said CAQ leader François Legault.

The auditor general also came own heavily on the AMT for its mismanagement of the Train de l’Est project. He said the board failed to put in place the proper mechanisms to make sure it would respect the authorized budget, scope and timeframe. Samson said management of these semi-governmental agencies must be reviewed, while politicians at the National Assembly refused to shoulder all of the blame.

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