Concordia’s Ongoing Relationship with Genivar
Company Continues to Manage University Construction Projects Despite Collusion Allegations
In March, François Perreault quit his job as the vice-president for western Quebec of engineering firm Genivar Inc. The following week he spoke before the provincial public inquiry currently examining corruption and collusion in the awarding of public contracts.
He told Quebec Superior Court Justice France Charbonneau and members of her commission that between the years of 2004 and 2009 his company was part of a cartel of firms rigging bids on public contracts.
During that same time, the firm was awarded about $12.5 million in contracts in downtown Montreal alone, according to an access-to-information request filed by Le Devoir.
Genivar received public contracts by providing a three per cent kickback to now-defunct municipal party Union Montréal, said Perreault on March 12.
The following day, Perreault testified that Genivar gave an undisclosed donation of $200,000 at the request of Union Montréal financial official Bernard Trépanier.
Perreault told the commission he learned later that acquiring the money was an extensive process.
“In February 2010 there was a report on Radio-Canada and CBC and it was announced that bogus invoices had been discovered within [the] Genivar firm,” he said.
“This led to a crisis, quite a lot of internal audits resulted within Genivar. And we found a lot of bogus invoices, dubious invoices, from companies that just didn’t exist for all practical purposes,” he continued.
“This scheme with these bogus invoices, well that was a scheme to try and get cash to make those payments.”
In a press release a month earlier, Genivar had said its internal probe had discovered “inappropriate conduct” in the province of Quebec, and had placed one of its employees on a leave of absence until a proper review had been conducted.
Genivar continues to provide project management services on public contracts, including at Concordia.
The global firm is currently coordinating the multi-million dollar renovations on the Hall Building’s H-110 amphitheatre, and according to Bolla performed the same project management duties in the installation of new escalators throughout the whole building between 2011 and 2013, completed at the cost of roughly $16 million.
According to university spokesperson Chris Mota, Genivar acts as project manager for most of the university’s major undertakings.
“Genivar’s been with us for many years; they were project managers for many of our major buildings like the Molson Building,” said Concordia Associate Vice-President of Facilities Management Peter Bolla.
Concordia has its own internal project management group, but with the upswing in renovations, outside overseers have been brought in, he continued.
“We have a small project management group, so we always have to supplement our project management services with people from the outside, with external professionals [such as Genivar],” he said.
Genivar has multiple offices at Concordia, located on the third floor of the GM Building. The company had overseen the recladding of the GM building’s exterior and renovations on the lobby, both of which took place in 2011.
It also managed the construction of the MB Building, completed in 2009 at the cost of $118.5 million, according to a Concordia University press release.
Mota told The Link it would take more than Genivar being named in testimonies at the Charbonneau commission for Concordia to rethink its relationship with the company.
“If there is any kind of indication of wrongdoing, the university always has opportunities to review its working relationships with any of our suppliers,” she added. “but simply having somebody named, well, that’s all it is at this point.”
Future Reimaging, Renovating
According to Bolla, the $4.25 million revamping of H-110, which began in the summer, is on schedule to be completed for January 2014.
He says students can look forward to a completely rewired space plug in-ready for laptops and other devices, and will also include a new projection unit, sound system, energy-efficient LED lighting and better seating.
Genivar concurrently managed the renovation of the Ed Meagher Arena at Concordia’s Loyola campus, expected to be completed by year’s end.
The company is also managing work on the Grey Nuns building, which Concordia acquired in 2004 from the order of nuns. The west wing was retrofitted into a residence, with the Grey Nuns set to vacate the building completely by 2022.
But with the sisters deciding to vacate the building nine years earlier than they had outlined in their agreement with Concordia, the Grey Nuns motherhouse and the rest of the building is being converted into more student housing.
New allegations against Genivar surfaced at the Charbonneau commission in September following a 10-week summer hiatus.
Testimony from Marc-André Gélinas, who worked at engineering firm Tecsult, alleges that between 2003 and 2009, Genivar, his firm and two other contractors would negotiate bids for the Gatineau region in advance, and also agreed to split up the funding accrued from public contracts.
Former Genivar employee François Paulhus subsequently stepped down from the National Capital Commission’s board of directors, which oversees real estate holdings in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.
Genivar has announced it’s undergoing a global rebranding. In an April press release, the company indicated it would gradually be renamed WSP Global, a process set to be completed by 2014.
The Montreal-based company acquired the British firm WSP Group PLC on June 7, 2012 for $442 million.
According to Genivar President and CEO Pierre Shoiry, the allegations facing the company did not affect the rebranding decision.
“WSP’s strong presence around the world and its global recognition in a number of market segments has led us to make the logical choice of changing the Genivar name to WSP,” he said.
Despite the allegations, Genivar’s profits have increased every fiscal quarter this year. In the second quarter, revenues jumped from $181.2 million in 2012 to $516.4 million, an increase of 185 per cent.
While multiple company employees are alleged to have colluded with other firms to rig bids on public contracts, Mota maintains that is not Concordia’s concern and not applicable to the university’s relationship with Genivar.
“Our contracts are publicly tendered, it went through a legitimate process,” she said.
“They were the best option for the job, and until someone tells us otherwise, that relationship will continue.”