Last day for Quebec companies to join contract restitution program

Voluntary reimbursement program for firms that obtained contracts through chicanery.

MONTREAL — Hours remain for Quebec companies and individuals to step forward with restitution plans for having obtained public contracts through fraud or other questionable means.

The deadline for participating in the provincial voluntary reimbursement program is just before midnight.

So far, 11 companies have publicly stepped forward while an undisclosed number of others are participating, said a retired judge overseeing the program.

“Our office has been very busy over the last week,” Francois Rolland said in an interview.

By participating in the program, companies cannot be sued civilly over the contracts but are not immune from criminal charges.

Sintra Inc. was the latest to publicly acknowledge its intention to participate in the program on behalf of several subsidiaries. Its confidential proposal involves an offer to reimburse money to Quebec’s transportation department and 11 provincial municipalities, including Montreal.

It joins other large players in Quebec’s construction sector that have previously stepped forward, including SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC), Groupe Dessau, CIMA+ and Frank Catania Construction.

WSP Global has also acknowledged that it has submitted a confidential proposal.

The provincial government launched the program last November, which is aimed at recovering money paid in connection with public contracts dating back to 1996 that were obtained as a result of fraud or fraudulent tactics.

Under the reimbursement program, companies must pay at least 20% of the contracts plus a 10% administrative charge.

Rolland said he is prevented by law from disclosing any details of what is being offered. He refused to say if proposals are generous enough to satisfy public bodies including provincial departments, municipalities, hospitals and school boards.

A final tally of how much will be distributed and the names of the participants will be disclosed six months after the entire program winds up in November 2017.

Rolland said his job is to evaluate individual proposals before deciding whether to recommend they be approved by the province’s justice minister or affected municipalities.

He anticipates the next year will be very busy hammering out deals following negotiations and mediation.

Quebec’s restitution program doesn’t affect contracts in other provinces or those awarded by the federal government.

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