The commissioner appointed by the Conservative government to serve as advocate for whistleblowers in the public service has resigned suddenly as her office announced it is the subject of a federal audit.

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Christiane Ouimet, seen in this 2007 file photo appearing before a Senate committee, has resigned as public sector integrity commissioner as her office disclosed it is the subject of a federal audit. ((Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press))

The resignation and the audit were announced by Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet's office in two separate statements released within moments of each other on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Auditor General Sheila Fraser's office would only say it launched the audit after it received complaints against the commissioner but would not provide more details. 

Ouimet's resignation, effective two days ago, comes a day after Radio-Canada reported a federal audit was underway.

The Radio-Canada report also disclosed the contents of a complaint filed by a former employee that mentioned the departure of 18 of the office's 22 employees over the course of less than a year.

'She spoke, we listened'

One of the employees, Normand Desjardins, who was the head of investigations, told Radio-Canada he retired in haste in 2008 after he determined his professional relationship with the commissioner "deteriorated dramatically and instantaneously."

"She was not asking for advice. She had no bilateral talks," Desjardins was quoted as saying. "She spoke; we listened. "

Several former employees, who wish to remain anonymous because they still work at the federal level, spoke to Radio-Canada about the "difficult" climate that prevailed at the office.

Ouimet would not grant Radio-Canada an interview.

The Conservative government created the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in 2007 to give public servants and members of the public a confidential means of coming forward about potential wrongdoing in the public sector.

But Ouimet's annual report released last week contained no findings of wrongdoing for the fourth year running.

The commissioner's office said it is co-operating with the audit and that deputy commissioner Joe Friday will taking over the office in the interim.