Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another day, Another BC Liberal bidding scandal

Hmmm, this whole thing is very sketchy. Perhaps the Auditor General's office needs to look into this. I don't understand why someone involved in the bid process would be investigating this. Why does this government have no basic understanding of conflict of interest?

As always with BC Liberals, laying down with dogs results in fleas sometime along the way.

Jobs minister Pat Bell 'breached protocols, broke promises,' complaint alleges

A CBC News investigation has uncovered serious allegations against the B.C. government and provincial Jobs Minister Pat Bell related to the proposed Wood Innovation and Design Centre project in Prince George.

Bell and the government are accused of promising to influence what was supposed to be an independent bid process in favour of two developers with ties to the B.C. Liberal party. The allegations are contained in a written complaint filed last November by two Prince George businessmen and submitted to Jane Shackell, the lawyer charged with overseeing the fairness of the bid process.

In the complaint, Dan McLaren and Brian Fehr detail their concerns about "breached protocols, broken promises and misrepresentation" by Bell and the government.

McLaren and Fehr allege that in May 2012, government representatives met with them and assured them they would be short-listed for the project if the land needed to build the development was purchased ahead of time. 

Did not make shortlist

Records show Fehr then bought the land, but in the end, no company owned by him or McLaren made the short list.

Three companies have been short-listed, but the winning bidder hasn't yet been named. The Wood Innovation and Design Centre, first announced in the 2009 Throne speech, is a $25-million project for downtown Prince George meant to showcase the use of wood for tall building construction.

It will contain a variety of public and private sector tenants, including some classrooms for the University of Northern B.C.

According to regulations, government projects are supposed to be awarded without political interference. But the complainants say they were "duped into the deal," because the outcome was not what they claim they had been promised.

McLaren said in the complaint that he now faces foreclosure on the property deal unless he makes a $1.5 million payment. 

Minister maintains he acted properly

But the minister insists that everything was handled properly.

"I'm very comfortable with it,” Bell told CBC News.

He also said that, in any case, he was not in a position to make any deals ahead of time, as the complaint alleges.

“To be clear, I do not sit on the project board nor have any authority over it. I would not and could not offer that type of offer to anyone."

Bell does admit he was interviewed by Shackell about the businessmen's complaint.

Shackell’s report, however, found the bidding process had been conducted fairly. But she also acknowledged that there were concerns raised by McLaren and Fehr that didn't fall within her mandate to investigate.

Elections BC records show that Fehr or his company have donated $123,000 to the B.C. Liberals since 2006.

The records also show McLaren has donated more than $2,100 to the BC Liberals over the past eight years and in 2001, he vied against Bell for the Liberal nomination in his Prince George riding.

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