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Liberals want ‘flexibility’ on federal integrity rules — which could help SNC-Lavalin

Liberals want ‘flexibility’ on federal integrity rules — which could help SNC-Lavalin
Canada
The engineering and construction giant faces corruption and fraud charges over allegations it used bribery while pursuing business in Libya. If the company is convicted, the updated integrity regime could mean a lighter punishment.

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The current rules disqualify offenders from receiving federal contracts for 10 years — known as “debarment” — though in certain cases the period can be trimmed down to five years.

The regime was designed to ensure the Canadian government only does business with ethical companies in Canada and abroad.

This week, Public Services Minister Carla Qualtrough said the updated policy, if adopted, will still carry a potential ban from federal contracts of up to a decade, depending on a number of factors including the severity of the transgression.

But a draft of the new scheme released last fall shows there is no minimum ineligibility period.

The integrity regime, which has been in place since 2015, is an administrative tool guiding government decisions on which suppliers to buy from — not a criminal process. Qualtrough said once the new policy is in place all integrity regime decisions will be handled, without ministerial oversight, by an independent authority known as the registrar of ineligibility and suspension.

The proposed changes were brought forward after the Liberal government heard from industry players who felt the existing rules were too rigid, Qualtrough told a House of Commons committee.

“It was a really a response to some concerns raised about the kind of lack of flexibility in the 10-year term,” she said Wednesday under questioning by MPs. “We are making a policy choice — if this new policy is adopted — to add flexibility in the registrar’s determination of both the severity of the offence and several other kind of factors that they will take into consideration in the decision around debarment and debarment term.”

Asked if SNC-Lavalin was part of the engagement process, Qualtrough insisted she didn’t know. One of her officials then confirmed that the company was indeed among the participants.

Qualtrough said the new policy will be finalized in four to six weeks and will cover a wider range of offences. Her department is seeking an additional $2.6 million to cover the expected cost increases associated with the broader scope of misconduct.
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