August 10, 2017

Liberals Dither Again On Muskrat Falls Investigation

The terms forensic audit and public inquiry are forms of investigation which have been tossed about in connection with Muskrat Falls, most recently in a rare summer sitting of the legislature Tuesday. 

Premier Ball and the Liberal government say they are unwilling to order a forensic audit until after the construction season. Does this make sense?

First, a quick outline of these separate but potentially complementary forms of investigation.

A forensic audit follows the paper trail to determine, to a high level of reliability, who knew what and when. A forensic audit takes place in the back rooms and need disturb no one directly concerned with efficiently finishing the power dam at Muskrat Falls.

But audits are not suited to evaluating the credibility of information from witnesses. If determination of the credibility of witness testimony is necessary, then a public inquiry, which hears testimony under oath and subject to cross-examination, is the way to obtain the truth.

Important witnesses at SNC Lavalin, the former project consultant, and at Nalcor, do not agree on whether a key report warning of huge cost overruns was delivered. Obviously, there are credibility issues which need to be resolved, and an inquiry is the preferred way to resolve them.

I represented breast cancer victims at the Cameron inquiry into breast cancer testing at Eastern Health. The Eastern Health pathology lab carried on business as usual despite the demands of the inquiry. 

Nalcor could do the same during any inquiry, and could certainly execute the dam project efficiently during a forensic audit. Top officials of Nalcor would be involved in turning over documents to auditors minimally, if at all.

I have consulted widely with former decision-makers with responsibility for Muskrat Falls. There is a consensus among these decision-makers that a forensic audit is needed and that it should be initiated now. The public shares this belief. 

The report of a forensic audit would stand on its own feet, but would also be of great assistance to an inquiry. Yet the government of Premier Ball is delaying and playing for time.

So the delay in ordering a forensic audit does not make sense, and has nothing to do with the public interest or good government. 

Mr. Ball and the Liberals are playing politics with one of the most important and urgent challenges our province has faced since Confederation.

We can’t afford to play politics with one of our most important and urgent challenges in 68 years. If you agree that the time for a forensic audit is now, sign up here to show your support.