Montreal’s sewer system smells of corruption

The stench of corruption is now suspected of making even the sewers dirtier in Montreal.

MONTREAL — The stench of corruption is now suspected of making even the sewers dirtier in Montreal.

A federal news release trumpeted Tuesday that will have scandal-fatigued Quebecers shaking their heads again: “Competition Bureau Exposes Sewer Services Cartel in Quebec.”

The bureau said it uncovered a bid-rigging system for sewer upkeep around the city, with six companies and five individuals facing dozens of criminal charges in the affair.

The scheme was allegedly employed in 37 calls for tender in 2008 and 2009, worth a total of $3.3 million.

Under the scam, companies allegedly pretended to submit competitive bids for municipal and provincial contracts to maintain the sewers.

“In reality, those charged had submitted token bids designed to ensure that a pre-determined company would win the contracts,” said Melanie Aitken, Commissioner of Competition.

The alleged collusion is very similar to allegations that sideswiped Quebec’s construction industry in 2009, and helped build public pressure that led to a public inquiry there.

The province has been awash in corruption scandals ever since.

The competition bureau says it benefited from co-operation under its immunity and leniency programs, which encourage guilty parties to share information with authorities.

One company has already admitted guilt in the affair. MSC Rehabilitation Inc. pleaded guilty Tuesday in Quebec Superior Court over its role in 12 calls for tender.

The company was fined $75,000 and is subject to court conditions for three years.