On February 22, 2010, the Office received a protected disclosure of wrongdoing that encompassed numerous allegations in relation to the actions of a Manager of four offices of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (the Department). The information provided included anecdotal and physical evidence.
After a detailed analysis of the information initially provided, an investigation was commenced in April 2010. This investigation examined four main allegations that were each comprised of various alleged wrongful actions on the part of the Manager as defined in section 8 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (the Act):
(a) A contravention of any Act of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, or of any regulations made under any such Act;
(b) A misuse of public funds or a public asset;
(c) A gross mismanagement in the public sector; and
(f) Knowingly directing or counseling a person to commit a wrongdoing set out in any of paragraphs (a) to (e) under section 8 of the Act.
There were also allegations relating to staffing irregularities which were severed from the investigation and referred to the Public Service Commission for its own investigation. Those findings became part of this report’s evaluation of the allegation of “gross mismanagement”.
The investigation team led by a Senior Investigator conducted site visits and interviews, and examined documentary evidence. The investigation found that:
- The Manager contravened the Financial Administration Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. F-11, by failing to have properly exercised delegated financial authorities under that Act.
- The Manager misused, on several occasions, public funds and assets by:
- approving inappropriate purchases such as personal massages;
- purchasing equipment such as flat screen televisions that were not used;
- paying for lunches for employees;
- claiming for monetary travel benefits when the Manager had not travelled;
- claiming for personal vehicle mileage when the Manager used a departmental vehicle; and
- using government equipment to conduct personal business.
- The Manager’s actions and omissions constituted gross mismanagement through failure to:
- follow Treasury Board directives;
- follow departmental policies and procedures;
- respect the principle of fairness in a staffing action;
- ensure the privacy of staff and clients;
- respect the human rights of staff;
- protect the security of information; and
- treat staff with the respect and consideration that are embodied in the values and ethics of the Department.
The results of the investigation also revealed several deficiencies on the part of the Department. Although these deficiencies did not amount to wrongdoing as defined under the Act, they permitted the Manager to personally engage in wrongdoing undetected for several years and until the start of the investigation. Although the Department had sent the Manager updates and hyperlinks to departmental and Treasury Board policies, there was insufficient oversight to ensure that they were being properly followed. As such, the Commissioner brought to the attention of the Deputy Minister for the Department the following deficiencies:
- The Department’s oversight of travel claims was problematic and questionable with approved travel claims that were found to be missing substantiating documentation.
- The Department had inconsistent cost recovery practices for the personal use of mobile wireless devices (BlackBerry).
- The Department had not implemented sufficient checks of regional accounting practices to ensure adherence to the Financial Administration Act.
- The Department had not implemented sufficient checks to ensure that proper asset control procedures were being followed and that departmental inventory control policies were being adhered to by the Manager.
- The Department failed to ensure that staff in the region in which the Manager worked complied with departmental security policies and procedures with respect to the handling and storage of sensitive information.
In accordance with section 22(h) of the Act, the Commissioner made six recommendations to the chief executive of the Department concerning the measures to be taken to correct the wrongdoing.
The Commissioner is satisfied with the chief executive’s response to the recommendations and with the measures taken to date by the Department to address the wrongdoing identified in the Case Report.
For more information, contact:
Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada