Ethics at checkout: no more power for the VG

The Minister of Finance assures that the changes in matters of ethics at the Caisse de depot et placement are already in place and refuses to grant more powers of investigation to the Auditor General of Quebec.

• Read also: Caisse de dépôt: 26 loans in conflict of interest at Otéra Capital

Our Bureau of investigation revealed on Wednesday that the Caisse de depot made loans that placed one of its senior executives in a conflict of interest.

Confidential documents from Otéra Capital, the Caisse’s commercial loan subsidiary, indicate that its first vice-president, Paul Chin, had a personal stake in a Terrebonne shopping center financed by the organization.

The Caisse made this discovery in May 2019, when a major ethics clean-up was in full swing internally, following revelations from our Bureau of Investigation.

At that time, the Caisse decided not to make Paul’s conflict of interest public and to cover up the affair.

According to Finance Minister Eric Girard, Mr. Chin’s situation took place before the changes in ethics that were made by the Crown corporation.

“Ethics is non-negotiable,” said the minister first, refusing to blame the organization. “You don’t share things. The situation you are referring to precedes the changes that have been made at Otéra.”

VG wants to check

Last March, the Auditor General argued that the Caisse de depot de placement du Québec, which manages $365.5 billion, must strengthen the protection and detection of conflicts of interest, fraud and corruption related to its investments. .

Although the Caisse has improved its methods, “key steps in the investment process” are not always carried out in accordance with policies, in particular those relating to conflicts of interest, reported the VG.

The latter stressed, however, that its audits at the Caisse limited its investigative work. By e-mail, she says she would like “to have the possibility of being able to do, at her discretion, performance audits of all government entities.” The Caisse is the only entity for which the AG does not have this power.

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Not his mandate

Despite the new revelations concerning Otéra Capitale, the Minister of Finance refuses to grant these additional powers to the VG.

“I think the Auditor General has all the powers she needs to do her job, she has access to all external audits,” said Eric Girard. “Performance audits are not in its mandate.”

The liberal and ex-finance minister, Carlos Leitao, believes that recent events concerning the Fund “justify” the granting of power to the VG.

When he was minister, the auditor had already made this request, but the Liberals had not responded to it.

“Now, I think that with the questions that arise (…) It can be negotiated,” he said.

He also believes that, “in everyone’s interest”, the report on Paul Chin should be made public.

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