A variation on the Three Wise Monkeys Theme
I was surprised by the number of emails and phone calls I received after posting the Three Wise Monkeys cartoon yesterday. Winnipegers are quite willing to guess at the “Who Am I” questions. There is a high level of agreement as to who the best candidates are at City Hall for “I see nothing” and “I hear nothing”.
I also ran across another image that attempts to answer the question of what causes poor hearing, eye sight and the inability to speak within bureaucracies. It is very revealing.
On a more serious note (if that is possible), it caused me to ponder the predicament that “I cannot speak” (aka the city employee), is in. The province has whistle blower legislation in the form of The Public Interest Disclosure (Whistle Blower Protection) Act to protect provincial employees who in good faith bring forward instances of wrong doing. The City of Winnipeg has not enacted similar legislation at the municipal level, essentially leaving city employees who wish to expose possible wrong doing, frankly, exposed.
In July of 2006 the CAO of the City of Winnipeg approved the Fraud, Theft or Related Irregularities Standard which applies to all civic employees. This standard was introduced in recognition that fraud, theft and unethical behavior is an issue within municipal administrations. The Standard requires that an employee who becomes aware of any incidents of fraud or a violation of the code of conduct must report such incidents to their manager or supervisor. What is missing of course is protection for employees who do so.
In September of 2010 the City of Winnipeg Audit Department issued the Fraud and Waste Hotline Research Study.
It would appear the impetus for this study was the lack of reporting as required under the City’s Fraud, Theft or Related Irregularities Standard. During the first 3 years after the City introduced the Fraud, Theft or Related Irregularities Standard in 2006, a total of 3 reports were received, 2 in 2007, 1 in 2008 and none in 2009. The audit report notes that: None of the reports were in compliance with the administrative Standard as none of the reports were made to a supervisor or manager as directed by the standard. (p.7)
The report indicates that one of the most common forms of fraud within government and public administration are schemes related to corruption (p.5). The audit report examined the reporting rates in several Canadian cities. Their review showed that between 2007 and 2009 Ottawa averaged 165, Calgary 50 , Edmonton 45, Winnipeg 3. (p.10)
One important difference between Winnipeg and the other cited cities is that the other cities have instituted a Fraud and Waste Hotline which allows city employees to make their reports anonymously to a third party and not directly to their supervisor or manager.
The audit department concluded: Some employees hesitate to report information regarding fraud or waste as they do not want to reveal their identity due to fears about potential retaliation for reporting a peer or manager. (p.7). If employees live in fear of retaliation for reporting a peer or manager, imagine the level of fear that must exist in terms of reporting a statutory or elected official. Another conclusion drawn is that fraud and waste is under reported in Winnipeg: it is likely that a number of possible fraud and waste incidents are going unreported due to the requirements in the City of Winnipeg standard to report to the supervisor with no reference to anonymity. (p.10)
The Audit report recommended that Winnipeg establish a Fraud and Waste Hotline managed by the Audit Department.
According to the City the process to create a Fraud and Waste Hotline is currently underway.
It is not known at this time if the City will also introduce whistle blower legislation at the same time. It is difficult to imagine why they would not. Whistle blower legislation would empower civic employees to be in a position to do the right thing and be protected. The winners would be the taxpayers and all honest employees, managers, supervisors, officials and politicians. The losers would be the dishonest ones. And who can make such a change? That would be the politicians, our city councillors. And if they don’t make the change does that mean we should assume they see themselves as having something to lose? (Did I say that out loud?)
Until such time as the City introduces meaningful legislation to protect honest employees who are prepared to put it on the line, “irregularities” will continue to flourish at City Hall and throughout the civic service. Why? Because they can.