Industry Minister David Emerson thought he could sweep the whole mess under the rug by cancelling the program quietly before anyone figured out the extent of the corruption.
But now that David Dingwall has been singled out as one of the lobbyists accepting improper commissions for getting businesses funding from TPC, the mess is seeping back through:
Industry Canada has frozen federal financing for research projects by an Ontario biotechnology firm pending the outcome of an investigation into the company's agreement to pay $350,000 in lobbying fees to former Liberal cabinet minister David Dingwall, government sources say.
The move is part of a much broader probe of about 22 high-tech companies that may have hired unregistered lobbyists, or allegedly paid improper contingency fees to lobbyists to help secure federal financing under Ottawa's controversial Technology Partnership Canada program.
Bioniche, based in Belleville, Ont., recently admitted to Industry Canada that it agreed in May of 2000 to pay Mr. Dingwall a “success fee” of $350,000, the government sources said.
The agreement said the fee was to be paid to Mr. Dingwall's lobbying firm, Wallding International, if Bioniche was successful in obtaining federal financing worth at least $15-million under the TPC program.
Bioniche in fact secured TPC financing totalling $17.2-million in 2001.
The investigation centres on whether Mr. Dingwall actually received any or all of the “success fee.”
It violates the terms of TPC contracts if companies pay contingency fees to lobbyists to help them obtain TPC financing.
The problem of high-tech firms using unregistered lobbyists and paying contingency fees for TPC contracts is not new. Industry Canada froze payments to four British Columbia companies last year after The Globe and Mail reported they had paid more than $2-million in contingency fees to one particular unregistered lobbyist. The department eventually worked out agreements with the companies to reduce their TPC financing by sums equal to the contingency fees.
Industry Canada used two outside audit teams — Kroll Lindquist Avey and Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton — to take a broad look at TPC projects and the lobbying issue.
However, a government source says the outside audit teams found it difficult to determine from the TPC files how decisions were made as to which companies and projects would receive federal financing and which would be rejected.
One document was found, however, that candidly said: “little or no documentation is kept regarding the decision process.”
TPC has an annual budget of about $300-million. Critics have called it little more than a subsidy program because the rate of repayment has been so low.
In summary: lobbyists were getting illegal commissions to get money from TPC, while TPC hid the paper trail and never got paid back.
Unlike Adscam, there were no great issues of patriotism and national unity at stake, nothing for the scoundrels to wrap themselves in the flag with as a defence against their critics. Nought but greed lain bare.
David Dingwall made a mint off TPC, and now he's running it.
Business as usual in Liberal Ottawa.
Source: The Globe and Mail