6 City of Ottawa staff fired, 1 resigns after fraud and waste investigations in 2015
2 employees admitted to stealing, selling copper, auditor general says
Six City of Ottawa staff have been fired and another resigned after investigations into allegations of fraud and waste called in to a hotline in 2015.
More than 300 anonymous complaints from city staff and the public were received by the hotline in 2015, a record number since the hotline was created in 2005, and a 92-per-cent increase over the previous year, according to a media release.
But Ken Hughes, the city's auditor general, says the increase isn't necessarily due to more bad behaviour.
"I believe the 319 reports reflect increased awareness of this valuable hotline service and not necessarily an increase in undesirable activity by staff," he is quoted as saying. "Since my first stand-alone tabling of the hotline report a year ago, there has been a noticeable spike in interest by the public and employees."
According to the report, of the six employees fired:
- Two admitted to stealing copper and selling it for money.
- One stole $68 from a city facility.
- One "falsified data in a provincial database to conceal the fact that assigned work was not being completed."
- One worked a second job while on sick leave.
- One called in sick, then failed to show up for work after being unable to find a replacement for a vacation.
The employee who resigned was discovered to be working for another employer while on medical leave from the city.
City vehicles for personal errands, chronic tardiness
The auditor general doesn't name employees who were investigated as a result of complaints to the hotline, and provides few details to identify departments or facilities involved.
In addition to the staff terminations, other cases were handled through discussions between employees and management, as well as disciplinary actions such as multi-day suspensions.
Infractions which did not result in more serious punishment included using city vehicles for personal errands, chronic tardiness and smoking near the entrance to a city building. One employee needed to be reminded of the city's code of conduct after being spotted wearing a work uniform to an after-hours event.
Most of the complaints — 84 of 319 — focused on the unauthorized use or misuse of city property, information or time. Law/regulation/policy/procedure violations came in second with 26 complaints, unethical conduct or conflict of interest followed with 24 complaints. Other areas of concern included suggestions for improvements; theft, embezzlement and fraud; and health, safety and the environment.
There were several cases of theft from city facilities, including $13,000 worth of property stolen from parked vehicles from one city facility, and $2,000 in equipment stolen from another.
The city created a hotline for employees to anonymously report suspected fraud and waste in 2005 and extended it to members of the public in 2009.