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Hydro whistleblower wants voice at hearing

A New York consultant who blew the whistle on possible financial risks facing Manitoba Hydro wants a second chance at setting the record straight at an upcoming regulatory hearing into power rates later this year.

The consultant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, sent an 11-page letter to the Public Utilities Board on Wednesday requesting new ground rules for her participation be established.

Her request appears to be a change of heart -- last month she said she did not want to participate in the hearings after the PUB denied her intervener status at the hearing.

"This is another attempt, consistent with the attempts of the minister of finance and NDP government to run a smear campaign against me for exposing over a billion dollars of mismanagement in the utility, and not allowing me adequate time, legal costs, defence or opportunity to defend myself, or clearly present my conclusions," she alleges of the PUB's hearing process in the letter.

While the PUB determined the consultant did not meet the required criteria for intervener status, it acknowledged the potential contribution she might make to the hearing. It outlined a process by which the consultant might contribute to understanding of Manitoba Hydro's risks and risk management.

She at first balked at that process, but in the letter to the PUB, has requested time to prepare a confidential report and confirmation she will be paid US$16,416 for her work, to be finished by May 15.

"Should the board wish me to stop what I am doing and commit full-time and resources, this cannot be done at discounted rates as it impacts other commercial... projects," she said. "I am soon to be involved on an intensive project and cannot interrupt that schedule. Your expectation to give Hydro unlimited time in scheduling and ask me for an immediate turnaround is unreasonable."

She also wants a "basic legal cost budget" of US$10,000 in advance to have the proper legal input into what she wants to prepare for the PUB and an assurance from the PUB they will indemnify $750,000 in possible legal costs.

She said she already has more than C$60,000 in legal bills in connection to a Court of Queen's Bench case Hydro launched to force a detailed public airing of her findings.

PUB executive director Gerry Gaudreau said PUB officials will discuss the consultant's letter today.

The consultant claims to have found Hydro lost more than $1 billion over the last five years and could even face bankruptcy and blackouts due to bad drought planning and export pricing.

Hydro has hired another consultant, KPMG, to scrutinize her reports, and Hydro wants court approval to release the KPMG report to outside investigators, the PUB and the public. The whistleblower has insisted her reports remain secret because they contain confidential information that could damage her business interests.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2010 A6

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