It’s not easy to report wrongdoing in the federal government (part 2)

We pick up the story from where we last left off. In trying to report wrongdoing, the employee has already encountered many obstacles that discourage him/her from proceeding. These include a non-responsive management, an ethics adviser more interested in protecting a department and their own career, and the written information that is on the Public Sector Integrity Commission’s website. In an effort to report the corruption, he or she now is going to fill out the disclosure form that is required by the Integrity Commissioner before any discussion can take place.

Let’s see, I have to provide my name, job title, address, and telephone number. The form restates that the commissioner does not accept disclosures via email due to security and privacy concerns. What do they mean by this? Is an email from me sent to them not secure and private? I really don’t understand this reasoning or why I can’t email them from my own Gmail account.

Wait a minute; it states the majority of communication will be via regular mail or telephone. Now I understand, they can phone me but I can’t phone them. What a curious philosophy when I am the one who wants to help.

The next question asks who I’m represented by. No problem with this as I am representing myself. With what I have read so far, I can understand why someone would want to have a representative to avoid dealing with PSIC directly.

Information about my disclosure: I have to choose one of six potential categories. This is confusing. All I want to do is expose a problem that needs correcting. Of course, it is wrongdoing but why do I have to try and decide what type? The form also states that I can use my own words in describing what is wrong but I have to keep in mind the six definitions. Why is this required? Can’t I just describe the situation? They’re the experts, not me. I am not a lawyer. All I want to do is to talk to someone to explain what is going on and figure out the next steps. Instead, I have to fill out a form and decide what type of wrongdoing. This is worse than the normal bureaucracy.

Under the fourth point, I have to give the contact information for the individuals who I allege committed wrongdoing. Why should I? I really only want the wrongdoing stopped. I am not vindictive. Why do I have to point the finger at anyone? A proper investigation will reveal what happened and who was responsible. This is becoming a witch hunt, not a problem solving exercise.

The fifth point asks about documentation. That is why I want to talk with someone (which PSIC states I am not allowed to do) to know what documentation would be useful. It states in bold, “specifying which portions you deem relevant to the alleged wrongdoing.” That answer is simple—everything or I wouldn’t be reporting it. Is there not someone there who could help me prepare this clearly? Oops, almost forgot, I am not allowed to talk with anyone before submitting the written documents.

Now there is a section called “other proceedings.” The first sentence states, “… there are certain circumstances where the commissioner must refuse to deal with a disclosure or start an investigation.” Why do I have to fi ll out the form regarding disclosures if the commissioner is going to rule that it cannot be dealt with it? I am already under stress and don’t need this. Is there not someone I can talk to before doing useless work? There should be someone who can help me. There are some advocacy experts out there. Maybe they are willing to talk to me and listen to what I have to say?

Oh well, I’ve come this far. Might as well continue. Section six asks if I have raised my concerns through another mechanism. Let’s see, I told my supervisor/ manager. Don’t trust the senior ethics officer for internal disclosure as she is more concerned with her career. Grievance— didn’t think of that, maybe I should contact the union and start one. Not a bad idea. Is this a list to help me or a list to find a reason where the commissioner “must refuse to deal with a disclosure. Why is this information even relevant to solving the problem and correcting a wrongdoing?

In Sec. 7, I am asked who I reported the situation to. Why do I have to name people? I don’t want to get them in trouble. I just want a solution and the wrongdoing corrected. I am asked what action has been taken and the current status. I thought I did that at Sec. 4 when I was requested to discuss the wrongdoing.

At last, the final page, there’s a “declaration.” Now what do I have to sign? First, that the information is true and accurate. Wouldn’t an investigation confirm this? Why do I need to sign a declaration to this effect? Of course, it is true or I wouldn’t be reporting it. The second statement is a major problem. I have to confirm that, “…it is my responsibility to provide the commissioner with all the information required by this form, and to attach to this form any relevant documentation.” Help. How do I know what is relevant when I cannot talk to the experts who can guide me? What happens if I miss something? What exactly is my responsibility?

What is this below the signature line? “Note: By submitting the disclosure form, you are authorizing the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to collect your personal information.” This is a showstopper. What does my personal information have to do with what I want to expose? My marital, financial or personnel file is none of his business. This is intrusive. I am not going to give permission for this. Whose side is the Commissioner on anyway?

It is bad enough that I can’t sleep nights, have migraines and my health is suffering. I can’t talk or discuss what is wrong with anyone that can be trusted. I was hoping that the Commissioner could help but, obviously, it just places me in a worse situation.

I give up. It is too difficult to report and too great a risk. There is no way that I am going to mail (or deliver) a copy of information when I cannot talk with someone who can understand my situation and give me guidance. Faxing a copy is not realistic. There are too many pages and no one uses a fax anymore – except for lawyers.

Trying to do the right thing is too difficult. With no one to talk to, there is no point to proceeding. I am just exposing myself more. The commissioner’s staff could show what I write to my department. What am I to do? I can’t afford a lawyer? I don’t want to launch a grievance. I just want to do my job the way that I am supposed to. I just want to be able to go home at nights feeling that I did my job with pride. I am trapped. The walls are closing in and management is getting ready to use me as an object lesson for anyone who tries to speak out. Is there nobody that can help?

Canadians for Accountability (www.canadians4accountability.org) is now the only organization in Canada dedicated to helping whistleblowers. This article was written based on discussions with many whistleblowers. What readers need to realize is that the lack of action by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner’s Office (PSIC) affects real people. The lives and integrity of public servants are impacted, usually negatively. We have witnessed divorces, suicides, severe and permanent health problems, damaged self-esteem and firings—all which have resulted from reprisals against those who had the desire to do the right thing and do their jobs properly. Of course, unless there is a finding of wrongdoing, there cannot be a finding of reprisal.

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