1 866-840-5837

waste abuse fraud

A very significant number that Winnipeg 311 is still not aware of

Yesterday I wrote a post about a couple of witnesses that apparently have come forward (according to media reports), to police with information about possible corruption at City Hall, the Civic Service or both.

That  post prompted one of my readers to send me an email about an incident involving the City that he felt was inappropriate  in terms of the bidding process.  In his mind it was at the very least wasteful.  This prompted him to ask the question:

“Who do I tell ???? Not like there is anyone willing to listen.”

That brought to mind a previous post I wrote about the City of Winnipeg Fraud and Waste Hotline.

Thinking that the Fraud and Waste Hotline might be a good point of contact for my reader I called Winnipeg 311 and asked for the phone number for the City of Winnipeg Fraud and Waste Hotline.  The long and the short of this inquiry was that the result I got was the same as that obtained by the Free Press when they made the same inquiry in September of this year.  311 was not aware of the existence of such a hotline and as a consequence did not have the phone number.

What should one conclude from the fact that even after the Free Press made the same inquiry some 3 months ago and exposed the fact that 311 did not have available vital information that the public is entitled to and that after the passage of three months no steps have been taken to address that issue?  I suppose there are a number of inferences that could be drawn.  The first is that 311 supervisors and managerial staff are either incompetent or don’t care.  Surely if they were competent or cared they would have taken some action after the embarrassment caused by the aforementioned Free Press article.  The second inference is that 311 staff and management do care and want to do the right thing (which is the sense I got when I called them today) but are being stifled or muzzled by the administration in terms of the information they have available to them and that they are allowed to give out to the public.  This second scenario, were it the case, would be of greater concern than the first.

No wonder the uptake by civic employees and members of the public has been so low in terms of calls to the hotline.  Most don’t know about its existence and those that do are not familiar with the contact information.

People cannot call a hotline when the very existence of such a hotline is suppressed and the contact information is not available to civic employees or the public.

I urge everyone to contact our new mayor and their respective members of council and ask them to do the right thing.  If we are serious about fraud and waste at City Hall there needs to be both an internal and external education program in terms of what constitutes fraud and waste.  As well, the process to bring such information forward must be clearly outlined and the contact information must be readily available.

So let’s start down that road.  The City of Winnipeg has entered into an agreement with a company call Clearview Connects, a third party confidential reporting service that will receive and document  information about possible fraud or waste as it relates to the City of Winnipeg.  Reports can be made both through the internet at Clearview Connects or via telephone.  The telephone numbers are:

Civic Employees                     1 877-319-5186

Members of the Public          1 866-840-5837

 

 

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The Whistle Blew, Was Anyone Listening

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We know from the Quebec experience that even in a sophisticated developed country like Canada, some politicians at the municipal level engage in fraudulent activities for personal gain.

Over the years some Winnipeg contractors have bemoaned the fact that some company owners and contractors have had a too close and cosy relationship with civic politicians and senior civil servants in the area of property development.

A parcel of land may have a very low value based on how it is zoned.  If a zoning change or variance can be obtained the price of a given parcel of land can greatly increase in value overnight.

Zoning changes and variances are obtained through civic standing committees usually based on the advice of senior officials in the administration.

Then there is the whole issue of awarding city contracts which greatly broadens the field of play into areas such as  water and waste, road and building construction, snow clearing, garbage and recycling pickup and a host of other soft services such as consulting contracts which the city regularly enters into.

The problem has been that business owners and contractors have been  loath to come forward and file formal complaints because many rely heavily on city business for their livelihood.  They have not been confident that a complaint would result in the required changes, and they cannot afford to be black-balled.

Based on media reports it would appear that we are now in a position where a number of people with apparent knowledge of alleged wrong doing have come forward to police.  Naturally police need to establish the credibility of the individuals coming forward and  assess the validity and reliability of the information they are providing.  If the individuals are credible and the information passes the initial test, there would appear to be a basis to initiate an investigation.

Lets hope that the appropriate approaches were used to ensure this matter was dealt with properly and that an opportunity was not lost.

Corruption at any level of government undermines both democratic principles and the workings of a  free market economy.  All available steps must be taken to investigate and prosecute corruption.

Toward an Accurate Editorial

Todays Winnipeg Free Press features an editorial titled  “Toward a better watchdog”.

The editorial begins:

“Attorney General Andrew Swan has announced the appointees to the Manitoba Police Commission, five people who will advise the province on police matters and help train the new boards that will watch over municipal police forces.”

In actuality, nine people have been appointed to the Commission.

The editorial goes on to describe one of the duties of the Police Commission as being to “recruit and train the civilians for the municipal police boards”.  The legislation does mention training of civilian police boards as one of the duties of the Commission, but is silent on the issue of  recruiting.

Province Quashes Warrants

Quite apart from the core issue, which is whether the Province should have quashed old outstanding warrants in the first place, there is another issue.

How many warrants were quashed,  for what types of offences,  and why is the government reluctant to disclose that information?

The province is taking the position they don’t know how many cases this purge involved and  that it would be expensive and time-consuming to make that determination.

I believe the reason is not a time and money issue.  I believe the province does not want to share the information so as to  (hopefully) avoid a political fire storm.

Why do I believe that it’s not a time and money issue?  Because I believe a list already exists.

Outstanding warrants are entered on the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) system so that if police encounter a wanted person they can execute the warrant.  So….at the time that the warrants were quashed, the Province would (or should) have provided  Winnipeg Police and RCMP with lists of the names of accused persons whose warrants were quashed in order that police could remove them from CPIC.  The police would need to do this to ensure persons no longer wanted on warrants are not unnecessarily arrested.  Unnecessary arrests could create a liability issue; if not for police, certainly for the province.

Such lists were provided to police, right?

If not, they should be, and quickly.

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police – Part 2

Part 2 

In the early 1960’s Mick Jagger and Keith Richard wrote, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you find you get what you need”.  Although the words were written some 50 years ago, one can find some relevance to the current argument about whether or not police in Winnipeg need a helicopter, serving as they do, to underscore the difference between wants and needs. 

At a personal level the utilization of our own resources gives us the freedom to indulge ourselves in terms of what we want.  They are our resources, not public resources and the individual is the ultimate decision maker on how those resources should be spent or allocated. 

In the public realm the expenditure of public monies must involve a careful examination of ‘wants’ and ‘needs’.  In terms of Winnipeg, should the police feel that they currently are not able to fulfill their mandate unless they have the use of a helicopter, then they may be able to make the argument that they ‘need’ a helicopter.  If, on the other hand, they are executing the fulfillment of their mandate and a helicopter would simply enhance their ability to do so, then it becomes a ‘want’ versus a need. 

At both the individual and organizational level, things we want are usually justified on an emotional basis and supported by anecdotes.  Needs on the other hand are justified based on logic, reason and factual proof.   Phrases  like “it would be a huge benefit” or “it could be used to locate missing elderly people in Assiniboine Forest” or “ it’s the right thing to do” and even “it’s as good as 18 officers on the ground;” and “it could be used to put a sniper on a roof” do not reflect deep thought from our deep thinkers. 

Where is the beef?  Where is the report being prepared by the Winnipeg Police Service, the report that was supposed to be released months ago?   

Things that are asked for because they are needed are backed by factual information that can be used to reach a logical conclusion and justify the decision made.    One can only hope that the police helicopter report will be brought to bear before the funding decision is made. 

It is the role of the police to prove the effectiveness of helicopters to those who control the purse strings.  And the proof should consist of more than simple anecdotes from police agencies that have a helicopter or companies trying to sell helicopters.  It should consist of more than just examples of things a helicopter could be used for.  The proof needs to be in the form of outcomes, end results that can be attributed to a helicopter.  Results must be evidence based. 

Politicians must be prepared to ask the pertinent and at times tough questions.  We need politicians who are prepared to be objective and who insist on seeing the proof even if they personally support a proposal.  What we need are politicians who are willing to determine objectively whether a helicopter is a ‘want ‘or a ‘need’.  That is their fiduciary responsibility when spending taxpayers’ public dollars.      

If any civic department comes before their Standing Committee or Executive Policy Committee (EPC) and is able to prove that in order to fulfill their mandate (which is set by council), they require additional or different resources or policies, the decision makers have three choices:  fund the request or approve the policy change being sought; change the mandate; or, allow the department to flounder knowing they will be unable to fulfil their mandate with their existing resources or under existing polices. 

Leaving funding for a helicopter out of the first draft of the capital budget may mean that the mayor and EPC have decided it’s a want and not a need.  On the other hand it may simply be an astute political move.   From a strategic standpoint, by not including the funding, the mayor and EPC provide themselves with an opportunity to gauge the response on the issue without incurring any political heat or backlash.  The process provides for enough wiggle room for helicopter funding to be added later in the process.   It’s always easier to add something to a draft budget than to remove something.   Anything removed from a budget, even a draft, is seen as a promise broken.  Anything added is seen as being responsive to the will of supporters.

If logic and reason prevail, the decision will be based on facts.  If  ‘we want what Calgary has or what Edmonton has’  is the mentality that prevails, don’t be surprised to see funding for a whirlybird in the budget when it’s finalized in December  – with or without a formal report on the study conducted by police. 

The facts might only confuse the issue.

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police – Part 1

The Players 

All the usual players are lined up in their starting positions.  The mayor has let it be known that he thinks Winnipeg needs a whirlybird.  After all, he had a conversation with a police officer from Alberta who told him that a helicopter in the air is as good as 18 police officers on the ground.  Convincing argument?  This is also another opportunity for the mayor to “deliver” something paid for by others, an area in which he’s demonstrated a certain amount of talent.  

 The Chief of Police, taking his lead from the mayor, concurs.  He even went to Alberta, took a ride, and liked it.  It would seem that, unlike the photo radar issue where the mayors message was not getting through to the Police Service, this is one of those issues where the directive has been received and the chief has the song book open at the right page.  

For the official opposition it’s a ‘no brainer’:  if they support the concept and it happens then they will be able to claim part of the credit.  If it doesn’t happen, then it serves to differentiate their position from that of the government.  The helicopter issue along with photo radar could be the first plank in the policing and law and order platform for the next election. The Provincial Conservatives are on side. 

The Winnipeg Sun is gleeful at the prospect of a police helicopter. 

Some civic politicians, sensing votes to be had, are lining up behind the Mayor.  

It’s almost a perfect storm.  

Why almost?   Because the Minister of Justice and Attorney General who would need to convince his  provincial colleagues that this would be a good expenditure of tax dollars has not weighed in yet.    

Could it be that he is the only decision maker in this equation that will actually gather the facts and make a rational as opposed to a political decision on this matter? 

In policing and other fields of public service delivery, there are times when political ‘wants’ trump operational ‘needs’.  In current times it seems that political decisions are made and then studies on the operational aspects of the issue are ordered to prop up the reigning political position.  

That would appear to be the case on the Winnipeg police helicopter question.  

Any bets that the Winnipeg Police examination of the issue will come out in support of the mayor’s  position?

Part 2 will examine the difference between ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ as they relate to public policy issues. 

Part 3 will look at the process that the Winnipeg Police Service should follow to determine if they ‘need’ a helicopter.