A HIGH-LEVEL QUEBEC CIVIL SERVANT married to Culture Minister Louise Beaudoin may have received questionable payments from an international agency based in Quebec City, according to documents obtained by The Nation.

Francois Dorlot, married to Beaudoin for 25 years, may have violated government rules when he approved payments to himself of at least $ 11,100 in questionable bonuses and expense-account payments.

Dorlot angrily denied any wrong-doing. “I’m not going to explain anything. I’m not going to answer these lies,” he said before abruptly hanging up the phone. He did not return subsequent calls.

Dorlot is a man with a colourful past. He had links to the Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ) and was bugged by the RCMP in the 1970s because they apparently suspected he was a French spy (see sidebar).

The documents show Dorlot received monthly payments of $925 during 1997 while he was on loan from Quebec’s International Relations Ministry to the Energy Institute of Francophone Countries. He approved the payments to himself as the institute’s assistant director for administration.

The payments came on top of Dorlot’s civil-service salary in the $58,400-to-$71,100 range.

The payments break down into a monthly “bonus” of $750 and an expense account of $175, which was paid from the institute’s funds, the documents reveal. That’s $9,000 in bonuses and $2,100 in expenses for 1997.

The energy institute is part of the Agency of the Francophonie

and is supported partly by Quebec taxpayers.

Pierre-Jude Poulin, spokesman for Quebec’s Treasury Board, said this level of bonuses and expense payments is totally out of line with Dorlot’s rank of cadre supérieur. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said.

Poulin said a cadre supérieur has a maximum expense account of $300 per year and is not entitled to a bonus. Loaned-out civil servants also are not supposed to receive additional salary from their host agency or department, he said. “Normally we don’t do that. We don’t have double-payments. It’s either one or the other.”

Asked why, Poulin replied, “It’s a question of principle. Normally we don’t pay someone who’s working somewhere else.”

Fatima-Houda-Pepin, Liberal international-relations critic, slammed the payments. “It’s against the rules. You can’t approve these kinds of payments to yourself. What exceptional work did he do to merit this bonus?”

International Relations spokesman Daniel Amar defended the payments to Dorlot, saying they were for legitimate expenses.

But the energy institute’s executive director, El Habib Benessahraoui, confirmed that the payments are indeed a bonus. He said the bonus is permitted under the institute’s personnel regulations. He said Dorlot has received the payments since he was first loaned to the institute in March 1996.

Assuming the payments were at the same level, Dorlot stood to receive $22,200.

The payments were recently

renewed for another two years, Benessahraoui said.

“It is a bonus given according to his position. It’s something completely normal.”

Benessahraoui refused to release a copy of the personnel regulations. However, a copy obtained by The Nation fixes a bonus of “$ 1,800 (Cdn) in the case of the assistant directors” per year. Dorlot in fact received $9,000 last year, according to the documents obtained by The Nation.

The payments seem to contradict federal and international norms on loaned-out civil servants. It’s unusual for such employees to see their pay topped off by the agency or department where they were loaned.

“You can’t be adding one (income) to another. It’s either one or the other,” said Michel Papineau, assistant secretary of labour relations at the federal Treasury Board.

“You can’t say you’ll use the benefits of both sides. Otherwise, folks would be cherry-picking.”

The Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization agrees. “Certainly the practice here isthat the salary is not topped off,” said ICAO spokesman Denis Chagnon. “This is standard United Nationspolicy. There is no addition to any salary of a civil servant from any country.”