Toronto Community Housing probes allegations of internal 'wrongdoing'

An investigation is underway at Toronto Community Housing into allegations of "wrongdoing" by vendors and staff, the organization's president says.

Initial review at social housing provider found 'improprieties' by staff, vendors

Toronto Community Housing is asking staff and its tenants, in buildings such as this seniors' home owned by the social housing provider, to report any information they have on wrongdoing by vendors or staff. (Google Street View)

An investigation is underway at Toronto Community Housing — the largest social housing provider in Canada — into allegations of "improprieties and wrongdoing" by vendors and staff, the organization's president says.

After president Gene Jones received an anonymous tip about alleged improprieties involving staff and vendors who do repairs for the social housing provider, he said he hired a third-party firm to review their processes.

Click here to listen to Metro Morning's interview with TCH president Gene Jones about the investigation.

The firm revealed potential violations that would "warrant further investigation," and an independent probe has been launched, Jones said in a statement released Wednesday.

"We want to stop whatever has been going on. We want to stop it in its tracks," Jones told the CBC's Metro Morning on Thursday.

"The word is that [Toronto Community Housing] is corrupt, and nothing is being done. … However high it goes, however low it goes, whomever is involved, we will address it immediately, expeditiously."

Allegations of kickbacks, questionable bidders list

The anonymous tip Jones received involved allegations that some employees were "receiving kickbacks" and that some unauthorized contractors were on a bidders list, he said.

"It just resonated with what someof the residents have been telling me and what some of my staff have been telling me," Jones said.

If the investigation does find evidence of 'wrongdoing', Jones said he would take action, including disciplining employees up to and including dismissal. The organization may also pursue civil action to recover money involved,

If sufficient evidence of criminal violations is found, investigators have been told to prepare a brief that can be turned into Toronto Police Services, Jones said.

This is not the first time the social housing provider has come under scrutiny. In 2011, the Toronto auditor general uncovered questionable expenditures by staff, including  almost $2,000 for manicures and pedicures at a local spa for eight staff members and Christmas parties costing more than $40,000 each.

The scathing report led to mass resignations from the TCH board, and the remaining members were ousted.

Probe results due by second quarter of 2013

Toronto Community Housing provides homes for 164,000 low and moderate-income tenants in 58,500 households, according to its website. It is the largest social housing provider in Canada and the second largest in North America.

Jones was later brought in, and has said his aim is to restore the agency's credibility.

Jones said the third-party firm will investigate these latest allegations with the help of the organization's chief internal auditor, chief financial officer and their respective departments.

Jones expects the results of the investigation by the second quarter of this year.

He also called for residents and staff to report any related tips and information directly to him, via phone or email, or anonymously through a designated hotline (1-877-993-6744) and website.

"I take these matters very seriously... We must assure our residents, as well as taxpayers and our shareholder, that Toronto Community Housing will protect each and every dollar we have, and expend funds correctly and only for their intended purpose. And we owe it to our employees. Most of our staff work hard every day to serve our residents."