After reading with interest the March 2013 report of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Mario Dion, regarding misconduct at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), we would like to congratulate him for finding and substantiating a whistleblowing situation.
On the positive side, Dion’s office received the report on May 11, 2012 and initiated an investigation four months later on Sept. 5, 2012. It was concluded on Nov. 9, 2012. This proves that when the commissioner wants to, that investigations can be done in a timely fashion. Furthermore, there was a clear-cut finding of wrongdoing.
But while this is encouraging, we at Canadians for Accountability still have concerns. Based on the information provided, it appears that CBSA had already recognized the problem, at least in part, and chose to do nothing but incorporate the relevant observation into the employee’s annual review. In addition, these actions have should have triggered a security review for the officer involved by CBSA. This would have involved the RCMP, and based on what we now know, would certainly have led to a revocation of the officer’s security clearance—and resulted in him being removed from his job.
This leads us to two questions: Why did CBSA management choose to ignore a criminal association by one of its border officers, and why did the integrity commissioner not sanction them? His report states that there was no evidence of gross mismanagement (or even ordinary mismanagement). Instead, his recommendation is that CBSA address the breach of a code of conduct by the employee.
This is not the first time that Dion appears to have avoided addressing the issue of management responsibility by giving them a ‘free’ pass. In previous reports, one involving fraudulent use of government funds and the other involving an executive using government resources to run his own business, nothing was said about the oversight that should have caught or prevented the misconduct.
Needless to say, it is disturbing to continually find in each report that management inaction is an acceptable norm. It strongly suggests that the commissioner feels that his former colleagues in the senior executive should not be held accountable.
We are also concerned with the fact the commissioner appears to be only choosing those cases which make good press but which have no potential to embarrass anyone in a senior position. For example, contrast this new case with the situation of Don Garrett. Garrett originally contacted PSIC on March 28, 2011.
An investigator contacted Garrett on Oct. 22, 2012 (more than one-and-a-half years after the complaint) to advise she had just taken over the file. The investigator was going to fly to British Columbia to interview Garrett but this was delayed. Garrett subsequently learned that the investigator was no longer with PSIC. This prompted him, on Feb. 26, 2013 to request the status of his report of wrongdoing which had to do with government contracting problems directly from Dion.
It has now been two years since Garrett first reported the problem. Dion’s reply on Feb. 27, 2013 is extremely informative. He wrote, “I anticipate it will be in the near future and I can assure you this matter will be given all the attention it deserves.” After two years, Garrett states that he already knows Dion’s opinion as to what it deserves.
As for the rest of us, hoping that our tax dollars will be honestly and efficiently spent, we can only wonder when or if Dion will start tackling the big issues and the real abuses in Ottawa. For Garrett is not the only whistleblower to be left standing and waiting: we have heard from numerous others, some delayed and others rejected altogether by Dion’s office. We are beginning to suspect that this will never happen. At least not until the next sponsorship/adscam–sized scandal occurs.
This op-ed appeared in The Hill Times on March 18, 2013