Retired engineer Gilles Surprenant testifies before the Charbonneau Commission on October 23, 2012.
Credits: JEAN-LOUIS FORTIN/QMI AGENCY
Retired engineer Gilles Surprenant said he took bribes for nearly every contract he approved in the 2000s, and he had previously implicated his boss and a colleague in the long-running scheme.
The Charbonneau commission went through 91 pipe and sewer contracts prepared by the ex-bureaucrat, who explained how he rigged the deals and took bribes from nine contractors.
"When contracts are fake, there is a specific spread from the lowest bidder to the highest bidder," he testified. "In other words, there isn't a big difference between the bidders."
He was nicknamed "Mr. GST" by contractors, one of whom says the engineer skimmed 1% off the deals.
Surprenant said he took part in the collusion scam from 2000 until his retirement in 2009. He had previously testified that he pocketed up to $600,000 in bribes from the nine contractors as far back as 1990.
Asked if his boss or other top bureaucrats ever red-flagged his scheme, he replied, "it was always accepted at all levels, including the executive committee.
"Possibly, it was an open secret."
Surprenant said he didn't know which executive committee member took the alleged kickbacks. Mayor Gerald Tremblay has refused opposition calls to resign in the face of the allegations, saying he did nothing wrong.
But Tremblay's former right-hand man and one-time executive committee chairman, Frank Zampino, vacationed with embattled construction magnate Tony Accurso while in office and both men currently face charges in separate fraud scandals.
Allan DeSousa, a loyal Tremblay ally who also served with Zampino, told reporters Tuesday that the executive committee is clean.
"Not only are such allegations irresponsible, but they tarnish the names of everyone in public life," said DeSousa.
Georges Bosse, who served on the committee until 2005, said he never touched dirty cash.
But the former politician also noted that road construction contracts in Montreal were more expensive than in neighbouring suburbs.
Bosse said he raised questions about the discrepancy at the time, but never received a plausible explanation.