“Gross Mismanagement” “These are not my words but the words used by the Auditor General in his recent report on the Office of the Integrity Commissioner. “We found that the actions and omissions of PSIC senior managers (the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner) in relation to this file amount to gross mismanagement “The score is now 2 for 2. Two reports by the Auditor General for two Integrity Commissioners. Both Christiane Ouimet and Mario Dion are batting zero.
Furthermore the Auditor General states that both the Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner committed wrongdoings as defined in subsections 8(a) and (c) of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. A question now needs to be answered. Which is worse – internal abuse or external abuse? The abuse done to employees of the Integrity Commissioner under Ouimet or the abuse done to all those who have tried to expose federal bureaucratic corruption with Dion? Both Commissioners were former senior bureaucrats. Both appeared more interested in their position and protecting former colleagues than in helping others.
Gross Mismanagement: The two OPSIC cases reviewed by the Auditor General overlap the terms of both Commissioners. The Auditor General states that he did not expect 100% of the files to be managed without error. This is a fair comment. But at no time does the Auditor General indicate or suggest that more than two cases were reviewed. These were the cases reported to his Office, not the ones that gave up in discouragement. In fact, given the recent history of OPSIC and our experience with whistleblowers having their disclosures ignored or rejected, these two cases are only the tip of the iceberg. We believe that if the Auditor General had examined more than two cases, the report would have included many more examples of mismanagement.
We have seen whistleblowers denied help by the Integrity Commissioner, fired from their jobs and who face, for the rest of their lives, the damage done by this lack of support. Nowhere in the Auditor General’s report is there any indication that Dion regrets the damage done. In fact, Dion’s defence is based on the process, not on the need to help people.
Gross Mismanagement: Regardless whether the first case was started under the first Commissioner, Dion assumed responsibility by opening a file in August 2011. He then decided eight months later in June 2012 that the case was not a ‘priority’. Whether or not the case had merit was not at issue. He did not consider it to be a ‘priority’.
The second case is even worst. Dion assumed responsibility by opening a file in July 2010. In April 2013, he ceased investigation as the Public Service Commission had begun its own investigation. This passing the buck is typical of Dion’s office. In May 2013, I referred a case to Mr. Dion’s attention along with extensive documentation. In July 2013 (over two months later), his office contacted me. I was informed that they were just starting to look at the information. I was then asked me whether I had sent this information elsewhere while waiting. Furthermore, I was told that if my request had been sent elsewhere and if any other body was considering investigation, OPSIC could not launch an investigation. This means OPSIC can refuse an investigation simply by dragging their feet until someone else takes up the case.
In fact, the impression given is that OPSIC hopes that you will go elsewhere. The optics and political ramifications are low and safe if OPSIC can refuse for cause, regardless of whether or not OPSIC is the architect of the cause. Indeed, three months later in August, I received a letter from Mr. Dion stating: “In light of the information you have provided me, there are insufficient grounds to lead me to believe that wrongdoing has occurred.” If I had waited, that would have meant five months lost in total. Fortunately, by that time the Procurement Ombudsman had accepted my documentation of wrong-doing. Instead of protecting senior bureaucrats, the Procurement Ombudsman, Frank Brunetta, investigated and validated my information.
Dion defends his actions by stating that he has established clear, closely monitored standards since July 2013. An interesting self- justification! What about his responsibility for the damage done to whistleblowers during his first 2 ½ years in office, first as Interim Commissioner starting in December 2010 and then as Commissioner since December 2011?
Gross Mismanagement: The Auditor General is concerned about the whistleblower complainant. He wrote, “The impact on both PSIC and the complainant is significant…” He also states in his report, “People who make reprisal complaints to PSIC expect that they will be treated fairly and that their complaints will be given appropriate consideration. “Dion, in commenting on the AG report, made it clear that his priorities have nothing to do with the complainant, helping people or exposing corruption. He stated that his priorities were to review files, staff all vacancies and engage key stakeholders.
In fact, Dion has not ‘engaged key stakeholders. Dion created an Advisory Committee of key stakeholders who were members only at Dion’s discretion. Indeed, David Hutton, Executive Director of FAIR, was ‘fired’ from the committee because he dared to criticize Dion publicly. Since we could also be subject to this ‘discretion’ if we spoke out, both Canadians for Accountability and Democracy Watch then resigned from the Committee. We must protect our integrity, even from the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. Gross Mismanagement: We now have a second Auditor General’s report about the second Integrity Commissioner. Mario Dion cannot claim that he is not responsible and accountable for the process of his office. While he may continue as Commissioner, the reputations of both Commissioners are linked.
“By their actions, ye shall know them.” Dion may sleep well at night. What does it matter if there are victims as long as the process requirements are met? If there is ever to be a possibility of a regime helping people, Dion must be replaced. A compassionate person, interested in helping and aiding people is needed.
This piece was first published in the Hill Times on April 14, 2014.