The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


"It was Brennan who specifically asked me not to substantiate the findings."

With those 12 words, the woman who has become known as the Manitoba Hydro whistleblower has assured the need for a full-blown investigation of Hydro---and specifically its President and CEO, Bob Brennan.

"Brennan's comments need to be refuted as completely false and incorrect," she told The Black Rod in an exclusive correct-the-record expose on Monday.

Miss Whistle, as we'll call her, has gone to war over Brennan's sly campaign of attacking her credibility in light of the decision by the Public Utilities Board to look into her whistleblower complaint of gross mismanagement at Hydro. She had been a risk consultant for Hydro up to the day she gave Brennan an advance copy of a report she had prepared warning of huge and avoidable financial losses and the possibility of power blackouts.

His latest salvo against her came in the Winnipeg Free Press

Brennan insisted he had been unable to substantiate the allegations in Miss Whistle's report; he blamed her for refusing to waive the confidentiality clause in her contract so that Hydro could have another consultant examine her findings; and he sniffed that she was paid $500,000 ("a fortune") for next to nothing in results.

She wasn't about to let those attacks go unchallenged. She told us:

"There is no request of any information from the CEO to ask for any substantiation (which was very surprising to me) and in fact the opposite occurred, he deliberately asked me to put nothing more in evidence that could prove the serious and alarming facts that were brought to his attention."

" (I) was never asked to send information to another consultant until media reports started running, and over one year later, after the fact."

" Brennan's claim that none of the findings were substantiated are factually dishonest. Multiple explanations were provided to the CFO (Chief Financial Officer...ed) over numerous lengthy phone calls and hundreds of pages of reports and the CFO agreed with me. Any facts that were asked of me, by any executive were provided promptly."

"Therefore Brennan's statements are not true. It was, in fact, me, that pleaded with Brennan (as can be proven in emails) to substantiate the facts, and it was the CEO himself, who wanted no explanations documented in writing, leaving the "advance copy" of the report incomplete."

She even addressed Brennan directly.

"Your comment that work of no value was provided is incorrect. My reporting line was directly to the CFO, and emails show both the CEO and CFO, saying that I was adding immense value to the company even up until August."

To back up her point, she provided us with emails sent by, guess who--- Bob Brennan, himself---commending her for the work she had done for Hydro.

August 2008
" I appreciate the considerable time and effort you put into completing this report by the deadline date of July 31. Thank you again for the assistance you have provided to Manitoba Hydro."

July 2008 from the CEO
"I certainly appreciate your efforts in assisting Manitoba Hydro with identifying risks and opportunities in this important area of our business.
Thank you again for your consulting assistance and advice provided to Manitoba Hydro."

She notes that nowhere does Brennan ask for any further information to substantiate the elements of her report.

"He asked me for not one question!"

Miss Whistle also wanted to correct errors in the latest Winnipeg Free Press story.

The $500,000 paid to her firm was for 4-5 years of work (!). By contrast, she said, another consultant was paid $400,000 by Hydro for 3 months work.


"I never said that about the Drought in FY0304. (That's insider-speak for Fiscal Year 2003-2004...ed.) What CBC said was correct and should be taken from their website."

Winnipeg Free Press error
"Mismanagement may also have cost Hydro more than $1-billion in the last several years, including the $436-million lost in 2003-2004 during a drought, the reports claimed."

CBC Winnipeg
"Bellringer was on Hydro's board of directors and chaired its audit committee in 2004 and 2005, examining data immediately after the period when the whistleblower report alleges that mismanagement, combined with a drought, led to the loss of more than $400 million."


The battle lines have been drawn. If Bob Brennan thought he could intimidate Hydro's whistleblower it's obvious he's sorely mistaken.

It's also obvious that a full and immediate investigation of her complaint is necessary, both to address the concerns in her reporting to Hydro and to serve as an example to Hydro and to every other public utility and government service that whistleblowers will be taken seriously and no intimidation will be tolerated -- no matter how disingenuously its couched.

Do you hear that, Bob Brennan?

It's additionally obvious that the NDP government and their lap dog Auditor General must have nothing to do with any investigation of Hydro or the whistleblower's complaint.

Newly imposed Premier Greg Selinger used to be the Minister in charge of Hydro. Auditor Carol Bellringer sat on the board of Manitoba Hydro at the very time of the alleged mismanagement, yet claims to be blind to any perception of a conflict of interest.

It's no wonder that Bob Brennan, upon learning the complaint had wound up in Bellringer's lap, said he welcomed her investigation.

By contrast, he's dead set against having the Public Utilities Board look at the whistleblower's evidence.

He's managed to deflect for more than a year demands from the PUB for Hydro's risk assessments on its grandiose plan for $18 billion in new dam construction over the next 15 years. The government has supported his stall, proceeding with construction of the dams and refusing to order Hydro to turn over the information demanded by the alleged watchdog of the public interest.

Miss Whistle cannot discuss the details of her whistleblower complaint without breaching a confidentiality agreement she signed as a consultant. The best summary of her concerns that we could find was in Saturday's Globe and Mail.

Secret complaint could bankrupt Manitoba Hydro
Whistleblower's report subject of intense speculation

Patrick White
Winnipeg - From Saturday's Globe and Mail Published on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009

"Feeling that Hydro had given the consultant's report short shrift, the whistleblower filed a 70-page complaint with the Manitoba Ombudsman last December outlining the consultant's concerns:

* The company's $436-million loss in 2004 due to drought was largely avoidable.

* Manitoba Hydro had so badly miscalculated its energy supply that the province's lights could go off.

* Annual report filings regarding drought were incorrect.

* Power export forecasts were overly optimistic.

* The utility had lost more than a billion dollars because of mismanagement."

Editors note: Since many of the issues we raised over a year ago in the Black Rod overlap with the concerns of Miss Whistle, here are links to our previous research and commentaries.

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