Ontario Works doesn't provide enough documentation to explain why some City of Ottawa employees have received thousands of dollars in emergency funding payments, according to the city's auditor general.
In Alain Lalonde's final report as auditor general, a sample of 15 city employees who received funding was taken. They each received emergency assistance cheques — ranging from $200 to more than $2,000 — in 2011 and 2012.
The funding is mainly provided by Ontario Works to cover "basic needs, shelter and benefits" in an emergency. The city contributes about 20 per cent, Lalonde said.
One transit operations employee who earned $57,000 in 2011 received more than $9,000 in five emergency funding payments. The payments were spread out about every six months from 2009 to 2012, according to the report.
The auditor general's report also found that the same transit operations employee received more than $8,000 in other forms of financial assistance from 2008 to 2010, for a total of more than $17,000 in financial help from 2008 to 2012.
'No documentation, no reasoning'
"We were not able to find in the files why that person was coming back up to five times in one case," Lalonde said.
"What bothers us is we had no documentation and no reasoning behind the decision. ... And the only thing we saw was a bank statement saying, I have no money in my account. I believe in that case, that person had two cars, for example."
"So it was hard for us to understand the decision process, why that person was allocated this amount of money over a fairly long-term period. If you look at it, it's about every six months, and that person almost took it every six months that it was available to him or her."
Ontario Works states that people can't get the assistance more than once in a six-month period, unless they're women entering an interval or transition home for abused women.
"It was a surprise to us, because as you may imagine, this corporation has programs to help employees, various programs to help employees, so if an employee has difficulty in planning their budget or any personal problem that may have an impact on their financial resources, they may ask for help," Lalonde said.
"Obviously the purpose is to help the people who really need that amount. ... But certain individuals who are making a farily good salary had access, which is possible, but in my opinion, not five times in a row. Not repeatedly," Lalonde said.
Nick Bergamini, a research director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said proper due diligence needs to be done.
"I think it undermines people's trust in their government," he said.
Aaron Burry, general manager of the city's Community and Social Services department, said Friday that the city has undertaken a comprehensive review of its documentation and verification program for the assistance program as suggested by the auditor general.