Manitoba

Complaints to City of Winnipeg's fraud and waste hotline double in 2 years

The number of complaints to Winnipeg's fraud and waste hotline doubled between 2016 and 2018, according to the latest annual report by the city's audit department.

114 reports of wrongdoing at the city in 2018, up from 56 in 2016: audit report

A City of Winnipeg hotline received 118 complaints about fraud and waste in 2018. This still is from a surveillance video claiming to show city inspections staff shopping during business hours. It was submitted to CBC Manitoba but has not been independently verified. (Submitted)

The number of complaints to the City of Winnipeg's fraud and waste hotline doubled between 2016 and 2018, according to the latest annual report by the city's audit department.

The office received 56 reports of alleged wrongdoing by city employees in 2016, including fraud and violations of laws or procedures. In 2018, the number jumped to 114, the annual report said — the largest number of complaints since it was launched in 2012.

"It's always concerning to see those kind of reports," said Todd MacKay, Prairie-region director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a non-profit group that advocates for lower taxes and government accountability.

"Certainly the city needs to take this really seriously."

Mayor Brian Bowman's executive policy committee heard details from annual report at a meeting Tuesday.  

City auditor Bryan Mansky told the committee there are a range of factors behind the increase, including getting the word out about the existence of the fraud and waste hotline

"It's been a multi-year effort to continue to communicate and build awareness," he said. The city displays posters advertising the hotline in workspaces as well as online. 

If it turns out more people are blowing the whistle on bad behaviour that they previously may have let slide, that's a good thing, said the Taxpayers Federation's MacKay. 

"That's great, because that's strengthening accountability and will protect taxpayers' dollars," he said.

Among the 2018 investigations — which included two investigations carried over from 2017 — 112 were closed as unsubstantiated, five were deemed substantiated and 10 are still pending.

Some of the reports were found to be outside the city's jurisdiction, Manksy said, and were forwarded to outside agencies such as the Canada Revenue Agency or Employment and Income Assistance. 

"So the increase isn't solely due to city business," said Manksy. 

Some of the reports to the hotline led to consequences.

Those include an employee suspended for not working during shifts, a department-wide reminder about the city's lunch and coffee break rules, and a meeting held to remind an employee that personal health information is private.

The audit department found one employee who had stolen city property.

Earlier this year, the city's property and planning department came under scrutiny for alleged time theft. The city is currently reviewing whether building inspectors conducted personal business during their workdays. 

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa and Winnipeg. Previously, she worked as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

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