Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So what's this Hydro business?

For a while now there've been murmurs about this mysterious consultant who alleges that Manitoba Hydro is facing huge problems in the near future. The linked story is recent, but it's not the first; the Tories were making these claims some time ago. Thing is, you have to wonder about her claims when you see this:
The matter has been exasperating for Brennan, who said it's difficult to ask another expert to verify the whistleblower's findings because she won't waive the confidentiality clause and allow another consultant to review her work.
Hmm. "There are huge problems, honest! I'd prove it, but I don't believe in showing my work". Admittedly, Hydro has also been accused of secrecy in the matter. However, other consultants have come to entirely different conclusions:

MANITOBA Hydro is doing a reasonable job of managing drought and export risks, according to consultants hired to investigate allegations raised by a whistleblower.

"We conclude that Manitoba Hydro's risk mitigation strategy related to an extended drought is adequate and helps meet a key goal of avoiding rate shocks," said ICF.

The firm, which is based near Washington and has a Toronto office, was hired in April, a few months after another risk management consultant expressed concern that Hydro could face blackouts and bankruptcy and had mismanaged its affairs to the tune of $1.1 billion.

The consultant says her findings were ignored and she was fired the day after presenting some of them to Hydro President Bob Brennan. She filed a complaint under the province's new whistleblower protection law late last year, alleging gross mismanagement and threats to public safety.

But Brennan points to the ICF report as proof the whistleblower's concerns were taken seriously but are unfounded.

In any case, the issue is serious enough to warrant further investigation, and Rosann Wowchuk has asked the Auditor General to do so. A reasonable move; we'll have to see where it leads.

The cynic in me wonders if this isn't a completely unfounded story from a disgruntled former consultant, which the Opposition sat on until Greg Selinger, who had responsibility for Hydro in his former portfolio, was running for the leadership. Perhaps they hoped this could damage his chances. If so, their scheme has failed.

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