Shirking in the Canadian government? So much for top-down management:
Inmates’ ombudsman shirked duties, often skipped work:
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2006
The former ombudsman for federal prison inmates often skipped work and collected $325,000 in improper or questionable salary, vacation pay and expenses during a six-year period of his 26 years in office, Auditor General Sheila Fraser alleges.
The latest report by Fraser, whose previous work blew open the federal sponsorship scandal, examined a wide range of government programs, practices and spending. It found serious problems with controls of public servants’ charge cards and safety regulations at Health Canada.
Ron Stewart, a former CFL football star who retired from the Correctional Service of Canada in 2004, repeatedly failed to attend staff meetings, was frequently unavailable to aides and otherwise shirked his duties, Fraser concluded in her report released Tuesday.
“Obviously, he [Stewart] was not at his office a lot and received wages for work he didn’t do,” Fraser told reporters after the report’s release.
‘Obviously, he [Stewart] was not at his office a lot and received wages for work he didn’t do.’- Auditor General Sheila Fraser
She also found that Stewart, who once played for the now-defunct Ottawa Rough Riders, charged the government for hospitality and travel apparently unrelated to his work, including five trips to cities hosting Grey Cup games, and was awarded hefty bonuses disguised as overtime pay.
The report alleges that over six years between 1998 and 2004, Stewart missed work on 319 days, but billed for them. He also was reimbursed $8,000 for two computers the auditor general said he didn’t know how to use, but were used by family members at his home.
“The transactions are very disturbing; his behaviour is disturbing, but what I think is even more disturbing is that it did go on for so long and that no one ever reported suspicions of wrongdoing,” Fraser said.
The government said it respected Fraser’s findings and would seek to recuperate any and all misappropriated funds, but added the alleged violations occurred under the watch of the previous Liberal government.
“We’re taking these allegations very seriously,” Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said Tuesday following the release of the report.
Treasury Board President John Baird said the bulk of the alleged wrongdoings in Fraser’s report were “the legacy of slack oversight and mismanagement” of the Liberals.
Fraser said she has referred Stewart’s file to the RCMP to investigate whether the alleged violations warranted criminal charges and recommended a further probe into his entire 26 years in office. None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Fraser’s audit of the federal sponsorship program in 2003 led to scandalous revelations of fraud and abuse at a lengthy public inquiry, which proved highly damaging to the Liberals and became a central issue in the last federal election.
Charge cards, safety regulations lax
The latest report also concluded that spending controls on public servants’ credit or charge cards were lax at the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency, although the auditor general only found a few instances of direct abuse of charge card spending.
Fraser found that only about half the employees of the RCMP, CBSA and Correctional Service Canada believe their agencies would take any action if they were to blow the whistle on ethical problems within their departments to their superiors.
“There has to be a culture of values and ethics that promotes the reporting of wrongdoing … and that public servants have confidence that action will be taken when warranted,” Fraser said.
The report also raised questions about dangerous gaps in Health Canada’s safety regulations for products including drugs, pacemakers, cribs and other areas requiring the agency’s approval.