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Racist comments, government credit card misuse and a stolen Blackberry: Ottawa’s annual report on public servant wrongdoing

123 public servants made 101 internal disclosures containing a total of 174 allegations of wrongdoing under the federal government whistleblower protection act

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OTTAWA – A public service director who made racist comments and who promoted an employee they were in a relationship with and a federal department’s internal integrity and security office that broke the government’s contracting rules.

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Those are but two of the latest examples of wrongdoings discovered by the federal government in 2020-2021 year, according to its latest annual report on allegations and investigations into wrongdoing by public servants.

In that period, 123 public servants made 101 internal disclosures containing a total of 174 allegations of wrongdoing under the federal government whistleblower protection act. That is the lowest number in the last four years, which the Chief Human Resources Officer suspects may be a result of bureaucrats largely working from home and thus have less opportunities to observe and report issues.

During that period, another 30 investigations were closed leading to 12 allegations of wrongdoing being confirmed and 19 cases in which a department needed to bring in corrective measures to ensure the issues did not occur again.

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A first case of confirmed wrongdoing involved an executive at Global Affairs Canada (GAC) who was accused by a whistleblower of “gross mismanagement” because of staffing “irregularities.”

The complaint also accused the executive of both repeatedly making inappropriate comments to employees, “some of which were of a sexual nature,” as well as engaging in systemic harassment through “inappropriate behaviors” with colleagues.

The report does not identify any of the current or former public servants involved in each case.

Though the investigation found there was no gross mismanagement, it did find that the majority of allegations of inappropriate sexual comments and behaviors were true.

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The document does not mention complaints against the executive, but they were ordered to take sensitivity training and coaching. The report also notes they left the public service before the investigation ended.

But the executive seemingly left a mess behind, as GAC committed in the report to working to “restore” the work environment in the affected workplace.

Two other cases of wrongdoing were found at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

In the first case, investigators discovered that one of ESDC’s Internal Integrity and Security Offices, whose role is “assessing the reliability and loyalty to Canada of applicants and employees,” broke the government’s own contracting rules and regulations.

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Furthermore, investigators also concluded that an ESDC manager “seriously” breached the department’s code of conduct when they told an employee to commit an undescribed act of wrongdoing.

The document contains almost no details as to what the wrongdoing was, except to note that the department needed to review its governmental credit card policies in order to “mitigate the risk of misuse.”

It also notes that the government will review all dealings between the department and an unnamed private security company.

“The Chief Financial Officer Branch will review the past and ongoing transactions between ESDC and the private security company, identify any unacceptable transactions, and implement corrective measures to ensure that the proper procurement practices are put in place immediately with regard to the procurement of security services , ”Reads the report.

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It is unclear if any employees were sanctioned following the investigation, as the document only notes that corrective or administrative measures were still “being determined” at the time of publication.

A separate investigation by ESDC found that a former employee committed wrongdoing by leaving with a government-issued Blackberry cellphone and continuing to use it after retiring.

The device has since been recovered and disconnected.

A final investigation detailed in the report found “gross mismanagement” by a director working at Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada’s national headquarters.

“It was alleged that the director bullied and marginalized another employee under their supervision (including using vulgar language and inappropriate racial comments), failed to disclose a conflict of interest in the promotion of another employee in which a personal relationship existed, and failed to disclose a conflict of interest in the approval of a sole-source contract with a third-party organization in which a financial stake was held, ”reads the report.

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Investigators found every single allegation to be true, but no protests are noted against the director in question, possibly because they resigned before the investigation was closed.

In 2020-2021, the report reveals that the government looked into 188 allegations (including some from backlogs from previous years) and launched 63 investigations looking at anywhere between one and nine allegations of wrongdoing.

The largest number of new investigations were launched at Global Affairs Canada (13), Public Services and Procurement Canada (13) and Employment and Social Development Canada (10).

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