Ottawa

Sloppy cash handling continues to cost city, AG finds

In 2016, $3,400 disappeared from two City of Ottawa client service centres. No one knows what happened to the money because municipal employees didn't follow proper cash-handling procedures, the city's auditor general said Thursday.

$3,400 disappeared from client service centres last year, Ken Hughes tells committee

$3,400 disappeared from two City of Ottawa client service centres in 2016, Auditor General Ken Hughes told the city's audit committee Thursday. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)

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  • Council unanimously received this audit on on June 28, 2017.

In 2016, $3,400 disappeared from two City of Ottawa client service centres. No one knows what happened to the money because municipal employees didn't follow proper cash-handling procedures, the city's auditor general said Thursday.

It's the second year in a row that Ken Hughes found issues with the way city workers deal with cash. Last year Hughes revealed managers in charge of the Parkdale and ByWard markets hadn't been tracking cash transactions and lease agreements properly.

"It's disconcerting when we continually come back to the same problem," Hughes said Thursday following his formal presentation to the city's audit committee. 

I don't want to paint this picture that somehow people are travelling to Las Vegas with millions of dollars in taxpayers' money.- City manager Steve Kanellakos

In March and May of 2016, the city found there were shortages in the bank deposits from the client services centres at Ben Franklin Place and in Orléans. But because employees had not following the proper procedures for handling cash, no one could ascertain at what point the money disappeared, whether it was stolen or even whether there was an error on the bank's end of the transaction.

Hughes said there have been two more recent incidents of missing cash reported this year.

Shortages reported to police

The cash shortages were reported to Ottawa police, but the auditor general's office was not notified until much later, which Hughes said contravened the city's fraud and waste policy.
Ottawa Auditor General Ken Hughes said city workers need to do a better job tracking cash.

While city manager Steve Kanellakos agreed staff should have followed procedures, and said spot checks and random audits are now being conducted to make sure employees are following the rules, he denied the missing cash represents "a systemic problem."

"I don't want to paint this picture that somehow people are travelling to Las Vegas with millions of dollars in taxpayers' money," said Kanellakos. 

He pointed out the city takes in $4 million in cash and a total of $127 million in revenue at its client service centres every year. In the 2016 cases the bank reimbursed the $3,400 to the city.

7 fired following complaints to hotline

Thursday's audits came largely from confidential complaints to the city's fraud and waste hotline, including a report on the controversial Mooney's Bay Giver 150 project.

Complaints were down 10 per cent in 2106 to 287, of which 38 per cent came from city staff. They ran the gamut from improper use of city vehicles to city workers behaving badly. Descriptions of the events are vague to protect the employees' identities.

As a result of the investigations, seven employees were "terminated" and another seven resigned. An undisclosed number of employees were suspended or otherwise disciplined.

The long list of wrongdoing includes:

  • Employees using city vehicles for personal uses such as picking up meals, going to a restaurant for more than an hour, and "regularly" picking up coffee for co-workers with a supervisor's permission.
  • An employee who was terminated after calling in sick to work at another job, and another who had benefits suspended for collecting disability benefits while working on side business.
  • An employee who brought a pet to work.
  • A number workers who made unsubstantiated health claims, two of which were considered so serious they were referred to police. 
  • An employee who made off with $2,700 in copper, but who was fired as a result of a separate investigation.
  • A supervisor who made "inappropriate" comments to an employee and had to apologize to everyone who witnessed the incident.

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