FAIR Monthly Headlines: December 2010
A selected list of articles added to the FAIR website last month. These are about whistleblowing, whistleblowers, and the types of misconduct that they typically expose.
The Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, released yesterday the results of her investigation into the the conduct of the government whistleblower watchdog, Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet – an investigation that was prompted by complaints from three of Ouimet's former employees. These findings amount to a devastating indictment of the Commissioner's conduct.
Fraser concluded that the three areas of complaint were founded:
The case of Suzanne Boudreau, a former Crown prosecutor, offers a rare glimpse of how the former integrity commissioner justified inaction.
James Bagnall – December 20, 2010
OTTAWA -- It takes a certain kind of personality to play the role of government watchdog well. Essential qualities include an inner toughness, a willingness to stand up to an entrenched establishment and a determination to probe when necessary. Christiane Ouimet, the former commissioner of the Public Sector Integrity Office, appeared to have none of these.
Certainly this was the gist of the recently published audit by Sheila Fraser, the federal government's auditor general, who concluded Ouimet wasn't interested in investigating complaints about alleged wrongdoing by government employees.
CBC Radio – December 10, 2010
CBC's Sheila Coles interviews David Hutton on reactions to the Auditor General's recently-released report, which exposes the 'totally unacceptable' conduct of former Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet, the watchdog who was supposed to protect government whistleblowers.
Auditor General Sheila Fraser's investigation found that: Ouimet failed to do her job, rejecting almost all complaints without properly examining them; that she engaged in reprisals against some of her staff that she suspected of complaining about her; and that abused staff by yelling and swearing at them, and berating them in front of colleagues.
Gloria Galloway – December 27, 2010
The three independent federal watchdogs created by the Conservative government operate largely behind the closed doors of their own offices and, after one was exposed this fall for having done little in three years, critics are asking questions about the effectiveness of the other two.
The case of Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet, who investigated just seven of the 228 complaints from public-service whistleblowers she received during her tenure, left many in Parliament questioning how the problems in that office had gone unnoticed.
December 13, 2010
Today FAIR sent the following offer of assistance to members of the two House committees that share the responsibility for follow-up after the Auditor General's scathing report on the conduct of the former Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Mme. Christiane Ouimet.
December 9, 2010
Former integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet behaved unacceptably for a public servant and allegations of wrongdoing against her are justified, an audit by Auditor General Sheila Fraser found.
"In our view, [Ouimet's] behaviour and actions do not pass the test of public scrutiny and are inappropriate and unacceptable for a public servant — most notably for the agent of Parliament specifically charged with the responsibility of upholding integrity in the public sector and of protecting public servants from reprisal," Fraser wrote in her report released Thursday.
December 9, 2010
Host of Power and Politics, Evan Solomon interviews Auditor General Sheila Fraser regarding her report, issued today, on the conduct of the recently-retired Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
Evan Solomon observed that this was one of the most damning reports to be issued by the Auditor General, and that it makes this office seem "a joke".
Gloria Galloway – December 9, 2010
Christiane Ouimet was supposed to shield federal whistleblowers from reprisals and expose government employers who were operating outside the lines.
But Auditor-General Sheila Fraser says Ms. Ouimet, Canada's first public-sector integrity commissioner, instead engaged in the very activities she was hired to prevent, berating and marginalizing her staff while seeking vengeance against those she suspected of reporting her misdeeds.
Charlie Fidelman – December 4, 2010
Are you your doctor's keeper? Will you kiss-and-tell? In asking people to rat out their doctors on unethical fees and illegal bribes for services, the College of Physicians and the Quebec health insurance board are putting the onus on patients to uphold the profession's code of ethics, critics say.
And whistle-blowers beware. Snitches face risks, including losing their doctors, patients say.
Charlie Fidelman – December 2, 2010
When Charlotte Lintzel was desperate to be seen by a surgeon at the Montreal Neurological Institute, she casually mentioned some of his preferred clients' names to his secretary.
Instead of waiting up to a year for an appointment, the surgeon himself called her at home the next day. He whispered into the phone: "Come to my private office tomorrow at 3 p.m."
Jeremy Bell – December 14, 2010
In late November, I went to a Senate Committee to provide testimony on Bill S-216: Protection of Beneficiaries of Long Term Disability Plans Act. The Bill provides for a small increase in creditor status for disabled employees if their company becomes bankrupt. I was disappointed to hear that Bill S-216 was defeated in the Senate.
It was a private member's bill introduced in the Senate by Liberal Senator Art Eggleton. Perhaps simple politics required the government to defeat it.
Have you ever worked with someone who was truly ruthless, egotistical, dishonest and manipulative? You may have encountered a psychopath.
Researchers have developed diagnostic criteria for this now-recognized clinical condition, and have discovered that about 20% of prison inmates meet the criteria. The incidence within the general population is about 1%.
Don Burns – December 21, 2010
In the Dec. 14th issue of the Echo there was an excellent letter by Jeremy Bell. However, certain other information needs explaining.
1. The 350 disabled employees and all other employees had made contributions to an employee insurance and long term disability plan. These contributions were never put into any insurance plan but were added to Nortel's general income.
Peter O'Neil – December 9, 2010
Canadians, living in one of the world's least corrupt countries, have a harsher view of presumed government inaction on corruption than citizens of graft-plagued countries such as Afghanistan, according to the results of a Transparency International survey released Thursday.
The Berlin-based watchdog, which reported an overall rise in public concerns globally over corruption during the economic crisis, cited Canada as being among a small group of countries where the public view is far more critical than the experts.
11 December 2010
Corruption is the world's most frequently discussed global problem, according to a new BBC poll for the BBC World Service, surveying more than 13,000 people across 26 countries.
The findings show that more than one in five (21%) of those polled said they had discussed corruption and greed with friends and family over the past month, making it the most talked about global problem, ahead of climate change (20%), extreme poverty and hunger (18%), unemployment (16%), and the rising cost of food and energy (15%).
Ari Shapiro – December 15, 2010
A federal office that ran aground under the Bush administration is about to get a new leader. The White House plans to nominate Carolyn Lerner to run the Office of Special Counsel, which represents federal whistle-blowers and other victims of discrimination within the government.
Whistle-blower groups applaud the nomination and call it long overdue. "She's a great choice," says Debbie Katz, a private lawyer who represents government whistle-blowers. "She's going to have her work cut out for her."
Rhéal Séguin – November 30, 2010
QUEBEC—Premier Jean Charest has finally acknowledged what his critics have been saying for more than a year – that Quebec is a province mired in corruption and it needs to be fixed. But the Premier refused to budge on growing calls for a public inquiry, instead promising a permanent anti-corruption agency modelled on New York City's Department of Investigation, set up about 140 years ago after the corrupt William (Boss) Tweed and his cronies skimmed millions from the city coffers
Andy Greenbergs – December 1, 2010
In a rare interview, Assange tells Forbes that the release of Pentagon and State Department documents are just the beginning. His next target: big business.
Early next year, Julian Assange says, a major American bank will suddenly find itself turned inside out. Tens of thousands of its internal documents will be exposed on Wikileaks.org with no polite requests for executives' response or other forewarnings.
December 28, 2010
GUNMEN kidnapped a 28-year-old woman who was the sole police officer in the town of Guadalupe, close to the violent northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, state officials said.
Some ten unidentified gunmen on Thursday set Erika Gandara's home ablaze and torched two cars parked outside before abducting her, witnesses told the state of Chihuahua prosecutor's office.
Since we announced that aviation safety advocate Kirsten Stevens was stepping down for health reasons, many people wrote tributes reflecting on Kirsten's contribution and wishing her well. The following are excerpts from just a few of these.
Brian Stewart – December 22, 2010
There's one problem area in the world today that must be stated as bluntly as possible and faced as honestly as we can — that's the collapse of trust in governments around the globe because of an almost unprecedented rise in corruption.
Every year, according to those who track these things, the world falls further into widespread corruption to the point where "at no time has there been less trust in elected representatives," the International Anti-Corruption Conference declared last month.
Protections Cover Workers in Industries Regulated by FDA; GAP Calls for Similar Rights for Federal Workers to be Passed.
GAP Press Release – December 21, 2010
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is praising Congress for passing the most comprehensive whistleblower protections for food industry workers in history.
A provision in the Food Safety Modernization Act, passed today by the House and expected to be signed by President Obama, provides sweeping protections for corporate employees who report any food violations enforced by the FDA.
Doug Powell – December 21, 2010
The dean of Canadian food and farm reporting, Jim Romahn, has written a powerful piece about the continuing failures in Canadian meat inspection – failures that had to be pointed out by Americans.
More than a year after 21 people died after eating Maple Leaf Foods Inc. products contaminated with Listeria monocytoges, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was failing to enforce its own standards and there was sloppy follow-up when hazardous conditions were identified.
Scott Taylor – December 20, 2010
Last week the mayor of Kandahar, Ghulam Hayder Hamidi, blamed Canadians for adding to the corruption in his city. Noting that Western political leaders have repeatedly warned the Karzai government to clean up its act or face a curtailment of foreign funding, Hamidi stated to Canadian Press reporter Murray Brewster: "Who is doing the corruption? You are doing the corruption."
The exasperated mayor went on to cite instances of Canadian civilian officials wasting money and employing dubious Afghan contractors who have repeatedly swindled them.
David Baines – December 15, 2010
For the RCMP Integrated Market Enforcement Team in Vancouver, December is the cruelest month of all.
Almost every year since the Vancouver IMET made its debut in December 2003, I have been providing annual progress reports. They have made for grim reading. Here are some excerpts:
Topics: Aviation safety
Tonda MacCharles – December 7, 2010
OTTAWA—In his Calgary law office, Justice John Major tried but failed to make sense of a one-page press release outlining the federal response to his exhaustive Air India report.
"I can't make much out of it," he said frankly in an interview with the Star.The former Supreme Court of Canada judge expressed disappointed bafflement at the announcement the federal Conservative government rejected several key recommendations of his three-year Air India inquiry.
Frank Parlato – December 7, 2010
Chalk up a victory for justice and the Niagara Falls Reporter -- whose articles on Ontario's Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) and their secret arrangements with James Glynn, longtime owner of the Maid of the Mist -- led to more than the unraveling of his lease.
Last week, four NPC commissioners, including staunch Glynn ally Archie Katzman, were fired by the Ontario Ministry of Tourism. Katzman sat on the board for 40 years. The others were Fred Louws, Italia Gilberti and Ed Werner.
Shaun Walker – December 3, 2010
Everywhere you look in Russia, there are stories of corruption, whether it's a traffic policeman shaking down a motorist for a few pounds, or a businessman complaining that top-ranking government officials demanded millions of pounds in kickbacks or bribes.
So the allegations contained in WikiLeaks' US diplomatic cables originating in Moscow are not that surprising to anyone who knows the country well.
December 21, 2010
Jetstar has reinstated a pilot who was sacked last month after raising concerns about the airline's safety. Joe Eakins, 31, criticised Jetstar's cost-cutting measures - including the hiring of overseas cabin staff - saying they were jeopardising the safety of the airline.
Mr Eakins also raised concerns that a new system of promoting pilots could affect safety.
December 15, 2010
GAP's Statement on Selection of Carolyn Lerner as Special Counsel
It is being reported by NPR that Carolyn Lerner has been nominated by President Obama to head the Office of Special Counsel, the federal office charged with investigating whistleblower complaints. A nomination for this crucial position has been needed for some time. GAP released the following statement regarding this development:
"With this choice, the White House completes selection of the strongest team of presidential appointees in history to protect whistleblower rights. Every appointee at the Department of Labor Administrative Review Board for corporate employees, Merit Systems Protection Board for government workers, and now the Special Counsel has a life long record of commitment to transparency and expertise in employment law. President Obama is doing his share to fight fraud, waste and abuse.
Alex Roslin and Bilbo Poynter – December 11, 2010
Treatment centres are struggling to cope with the surge of addicts hooked on the heroin that is pouring into Canada from war-torn Afghanistan.
It's just before 1 p.m. on a cool, sunny Monday afternoon in late November. On a quiet residential street in Montreal's east end, half a dozen heroin addicts are waiting by office phones and cellphones in the Méta d'Âme drop-in centre and residence for opiate users and recovering addicts.
December 3, 2010
In Russia, the findings of a young whistleblower lawyer concerning the rampant corruption of major state-affiliated companies have made much bigger waves than the recent tsunami of Wikileaks revelations.
34-year-old Moscow lawyer Alexey Navalny could be nicknamed the "one-man Wikileaks". His website is dedicated to uncovering and publishing incidents of high-level corporate corruption, with revelations concerning Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom, leading Russian oil company Rosneft and Russian bank VTP, among others.
29 November 2010
Three senior Fifa officials who will vote on the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids took bribes in the 1990s, according to the BBC's Panorama. Nicolas Leoz, Issa Hayatou and Ricardo Teixeira took the money from a sport marketing firm awarded lucrative World Cup rights, the programme alleges.
The alleged bribes are included in a confidential document listing 175 payments totalling about $100m (£64m).
Sue Reisinger – December 6, 2010
Ever wonder what happens to all those unused drugs in nursing homes? Well, they are supposed to be legally disposed of, but at least one company found itself in trouble for allegedly trying to resell them.
On Thursday Woodhaven Pharmacy Services, doing business as Remedi SeniorCare, Inc., in Baltimore, agreed to pay nearly $1.3 million to resolve civil allegations that it illegally redistributed the adulterated drugs to long-term care and assisted living facilities.
December 2, 2010
Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at New York University, thinks aloud about WikiLeaks. He has some interesting things to say about WikiLeaks as a 'stateless news organisation'.
Hi, it's Jay Rosen and welcome to my fourth Late Night With Press Think video. Tonight, I'm going to try to explain how I think about Wikileaks, which is certainly in the news lately.
Nicholas Galletti and Marc Lemieux – December 29, 2010
The election-related violence in Haiti that made headlines recently was, sadly, all too predictable. The record amount of money pledged to Haiti following a devastating earthquake was not enough to get the country back on its feet. The absence of a sustainable democracy is the root of the problem in Haiti – not poor construction or lack of funds. Everyone knows this.
But donor countries, including Canada, ignored this reality despite decades of experience. The 2006 presidential election in Haiti was marred by the same politicized electoral commission and lack of transparency. The crucial institution-building that was necessary to avoid a repeat was never completed. Food aid, reconstruction and security are doomed to failure under the weight of corruption, impunity and weak institutions.
Elizabeth Nolan - December 29, 2010
A local stock trader and financial expert who lost thousands in the Southwestern gold mine scam has called the case one of Canada's most serious white collar crimes.
Salt Spring resident Ron Martin characterizes himself as being more savvy than the average investor. As the vice president of Ontario's public services union for many years, he monitored one of the province's largest pension plans. He's also traded a lot of stock personally. But like many other perhaps more naive Canadians, Martin was victim to one of the country's largest-ever investor frauds, allegedly perpetrated by fellow islander John Paterson.
Scott Taylor – December 29, 2010
Just one week before Christmas, as shopping malls across North America were blaring carols exhorting us to enjoy peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, the news came that yet another Canadian soldier had been killed in Afghanistan.
Two days shy of his 25th birthday, Cpl. Steve Martin became the 154th Canadian Forces fatality since we first deployed troops into that war-torn country in February 2002. Added to that butcher's bill are the approximately 1,500 Canadian soldiers who have suffered some form of physical wound or injury while deployed to Afghanistan, with an estimated 850 designated as Very Severely Injured who will never fully recover.
Kathryn May – December 27, 2010
Canada's public servants took more cases of suspected wrongdoing to senior officials in their own departments last year than they reported to the office of disgraced Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet.
A recent Treasury Board report showed public servants revealed 248 cases of possible wrongdoing to the senior officials in their departments, rather than going to Ouimet, the government's first integrity watchdog.
Re: "'Whistleblower legislation words not supported by deeds,'" (The Hill Times, Dec. 13, p. 1).
Canadians need to understand the connection between the auditor general's damning report on the now-retired public sector integrity commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, the near-death state of the access to information system, and the kind of embarrassing and damaging leaks like the ones that come from WikiLeaks and other non-governmental organizations that facilitate whistleblowing.
Research has shown that whistleblowers tend to be high performers who are strongly dedicated to their jobs. When people like this see wrongdoing or mismanagement, they do their best to address it. Naturally, most would prefer to do it through official channels. What so few understand, however, is that official mechanisms are usually designed by management, which has an interest in preventing scandals from surfacing.
Hill Time Editorial – December 20, 2010
Treasury Board President Stockwell Day named a new interim Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada Mario Dion last week after Auditor General Sheila Fraser's recent audit found Canada's former public sector integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet spent the last three years doing very little with her $6.5-million annual budget and very little in response to the hundreds of disclosures of wrongdoing from whistleblowers in the federal public service.
Ms. Ouimet retired in October before the AG's audit was released on Dec. 9. But Ms. Ouimet has left a mess behind and must answer some serious questions about her leadership. So should the government.
House Public Accounts Committee to call former disgraced public sector integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet to explain herself.
Jessica Bruno – December 20, 2010
While Parliament is poised to probe former disgraced public sector integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet, who ran a $6.5-million annual budget until she retired in October, did very little in response to the hundreds of disclosures of wrongdoing from whistleblowers in the last three years, and "failed to properly perform her mandate," Canada's Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page, who has produced influential and hard-hitting reports over the last two years in an effort to bring "truth to budgeting" to Parliament, has had to fight to get his $2.8-million budget and is still battling for real independence.
"When you look at the integrity commissioner's budget is, and the work that she did or didn't do, it's really quite a stark contrast," NDP MP Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, Ont.) told The Hill Times. "So you have somebody who didn't manage to do what was mandated of her, on the one hand, given a lot more resources, and yet someone who most people would argue was going above the challenge that was given to him, isn't given enough money to do his job."
Denise Davy – December 23, 2010
RCMP and Hamilton police are joining forces to investigate SISO for fraud against the government. The Hamilton police major fraud unit has been conducting an investigation into Settlement and Integration Services Organization, a 17-year-old agency that provides services for refugees and immigrants.
Hamilton/Niagara regional RCMP spokesperson Sergeant Marc LaPorte told The Spectator Hamilton police asked the RCMP's commercial crime division to get involved because of the type of fraud that's being investigated.
Topics: Access to information
Joan Bryden – December 19, 2010
OTTAWA - The federal government has relented on its adamant refusal to release decades-old intelligence on socialist icon Tommy Douglas. It's now promising to review the file and release additional material.
The promise follows a closed-door hearing during which a Federal Court judge expressed concern about the continued secrecy surrounding the file compiled by the RCMP on a figure of such historic significance.
Andrew McIntosh – December 21, 2010
MONTREAL - Eight Quebec companies and five employees were charged Tuesday with bid-rigging amid allegations that they colluded on $8 million worth of contracts to install heating and air-conditioning systems in five new Montreal condominium highrises.
The Competition Bureau laid 27 criminal charges after a major five-year investigation that may fuel renewed calls for a public inquiry into the seemingly endless corruption of Quebec's infamous construction sector.
Denise Davy – December 20, 2010
The elevator doors open in the main lobby of the downtown courthouse. A small crowd that has been waiting patiently for Morteza Jafarpour erupts into cheers when they spot him.
The crowd rushes forward to embrace him. It's a hero's welcome, although Jafarpour looks anything but. He is pale and worn and the oversized jail-issued deck shoes he's wearing force him to shuffle.
PCO advised against hiring bureaucrat.
Kathryn May – December 19, 2010
The man who built Canada's first integrity office says he warned the Privy Council Office against appointing a senior bureaucrat as commissioner because most don't have the courage and the independence for the job.
Edward Keyserlingk, a leading expert on bioethics who laid the groundwork for the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, said he advised officials at the PCO to recruit candidates from outside government for the integrity commissioner job.
Jean-Marc Léger – December 18, 2010
When asked about their perceptions of corruption in Quebec, 72% of Quebecers say they believe that politicians are corrupt. This places Quebec 1st in Canada and 22nd in the world according to the Global Corruption Perception Index. This is one of the findings of a survey covering 86 countries, conducted by Leger Marketing and its international network WIN for Transparency International.
Worse, 56% believe that corruption has increased over the past three years and 13% say they would not even report cases of corruption that they witness.
Stephen Maher – December 18, 2010
In the 2006 election campaign, Stephen Harper promised to "establish a Public Appointments Commission to set merit-based requirements for appointments to government boards, commissions and agencies, to ensure that competitions for posts are widely publicized and fairly conducted."
This was an excellent idea, a key plank in the Tories' accountability platform, a series of policy proposals designed to clean up Ottawa after the sponsorship scandal.
Stephen Maher – December 18, 2010
OTTAWA — In three years, the office of the public sector integrity commissioner didn't manage to find a single example of wrongdoing by a public servant, but it did manage to spend $1.5 million on advice from contractors, a blizzard of bureaucratic processes that do not appear to have helped the organization fulfil its mandate.
Much of the money went for communication advice and management consulting, much of it describing processes that sound impenetrable to anyone who hasn't spend their career in the public service.
Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (FAIR) promotes integrity and accountability within government by empowering employees to speak out without fear of reprisal when they encounter wrongdoing. Our aim is to support legislation and management practices that will provide effective protection for whistleblowers and hence occupational free speech in the workplace. FAIR is a registered Canadian charity.
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