Whistleblowing civil servants in Nova Scotia filed 26 allegations of government wrongdoing with the province's ombudsman in the past year, including accusations of kickbacks, unsafe working conditions and abuse of authority.
But ombudsman Dwight Bishop said Thursday he wouldn't release any details about the allegations, citing the need for confidentiality in the Ombudsman Act. The allegations were disclosed to him under the province's Civil Service Disclosure of Wrongdoing regulations.
"The [allegations] can be anywhere from harassment to misappropriation of funds," he said shortly after he tabled his annual report in the legislature.
"They just run the gamut."
Bishop said none of the allegations involving kickbacks required a formal investigation by his office, but he declined to say whether any of the allegations were referred to police.
"I don't believe it would be appropriate to discuss that," he said.
The report says two of the 26 allegations are being investigated by his office, but Bishop said he wouldn't talk about those complaints until next year.
The other 24 complaints were either abandoned by the complainants, dismissed as inapplicable under the regulations or referred for further assessment by Bishop's office or another agency.
"When something comes forward like that it's looked at very seriously. In some cases there's not a lot to it," he said.
"If there was a significant issue there that we felt was credible, then we would have carried out our own investigation as well as referred it to police. So I conclude in this that it was not. We did not investigate it."
The ombudsman said the allegations represent the typical number of complaints he receives each year from civil servants, and he said the amount was comparable to what other provinces deal with.
Bishop said two of the three whistleblower investigations launched last year by his office concluded that government wrongdoing had occurred. Again, he declined to release any details, except to say that one case involved "respect in the workplace," while the other related to "compliance and enforcement."
Since the whistleblower regulations came into effect in 2004, the ombudsman has received 107 allegations of government wrongdoing, but only three have been substantiated.
Premier Darrell Dexter said he had yet to read Bishop's report.
The ombudsman's office typically receives about 2,400 complaints annually.
'A lot of slippage'
Bishop said new whistleblower regulations will allow his office to say more about the allegations in the future. However, Bishop was circumspect when asked about other findings in his report, which also lacked details.
The report says Bishop's office determined that a volunteer fire department had failed to secure the scene after a house fire, which made it impossible to determine if the fire was caused by arson, as a complainant had alleged. The report did not say when the fire broke out.
Bishop said recommendations for changes were forwarded to the provincial Fire Marshal's Office, but he would not say which fire department was involved or where the fire happened, other than to say it was in the Truro area.
"I'd rather deal with that in a general sense," he said.
"Police weren't notified. There was a lot of slippage."
The report also said Bishop's office investigated the actions of several provincial departments, tribunals, committees, school boards and municipalities, but none of them are named in the report.
As well, Bishop said his office completed reviews of the province's Correctional Service, emergency room access and placement of youth with complex needs. But he said none of those reviews will be released to the public.
"I believe you'll find this is probably one of the more informative reports or equal to any report issued by my counterparts in the country," he said.
"You have to bear in mind that we do have language in the act that requires confidentiality."