1 866-840-5837 Part II

On Monday December 22nd 2014 some 20 months after creating the Fraud and Waste Hotline the City of Winnipeg Published the following communique:

 

 

For Immediate Release

Monday, December 22, 2014

 

Fraud & Waste Hotline

 

Recognize it. Report it.

 

Winnipeg, MB – The City of Winnipeg’s webpage has been updated to provide information and access to the Fraud & Waste Hotline. The Hotline is available to all citizens as a convenient and confidential way to report any observed or suspected fraud, theft or misuse involving City resources. Reports should be about a specific incident and should, to the extent possible, include the – “who, what, when and where.”

 

The Fraud & Waste Hotline is operated by an independent third party under contract with the Audit Department and is accessible by phone or internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To report an incident of suspected fraud or other inappropriate activity, please visit the Fraud & Waste Hotline online at clearviewconnects.com or by telephone at 1-866-840-5837. Information in reports can only be accessed by the Audit Department.

 

Additional information is available at City of Winnipeg – Audit Department.

 

There is no indication at this point that the City has taken any steps to internally publish the other Hotline number,  1 877-319-5186, which is intended for use by civic employees.

Although the City should be applauded for finally doing the right thing in terms of informing the public about the Fraud and Waste Hotline, they now need to address the other half of the equation which is to provide education and training to civic employees in terms of what constitutes fraud and waste.  As well, they need to  ensure that everyone understands that  as employees they are under an obligation to report matters that are contrary to the best interests of the City.

Lastly, the City needs to introduce meaningful protection for employees who in good faith bring to the attention of the City for the purposes of investigation any instances of fraud or waste.  Internal reporting of wrongdoing is a very difficult scenario and unless guarantees of protection exist employees will not come forward with such information.

If the City is serious about addressing the issue of fraud and waste it needs to enact whistle blower legislation to protect employees who come forward and report instances of fraud and waste.  The half hearted approach outlined in Administrative Directive HR 008 is grossly inadequate and sends the wrong message to employees.  

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

 

 

A Dangerous Convergence of Power and Authority

images

Who will be the next Mini Me?

The Ernst and Young audit report on the fire halls fiasco has finally seen the light of day.  It doesn’t look pretty and it emanates a distinctly unpleasant odor, an odor of rot festering in the political and administrative bowels of power at City Hall.

The report outlines a number of concerns that deal with administrative process and oversight but the most concerning issues identified (albeit process-related) strike at the very heart of the free enterprise system as well as citizen and business trust.

The city is not in a position to perform much of the work on projects it finances and thus hires contractors to perform those tasks.  That process of hiring such contractors must be fair and equitable and put all bidders on an equal footing.

At the core of many municipal corruption scandals is the bypassing of such processes.  Some bidders are given, or gain an unfair advantage by having access to confidential information not available to other bidders.  According to the Ernst and Young report Shindico had such an advantage in the case at hand.

In most cases where one party gains an unfair advantage they will realize an increase in profits and reciprocate with some form of quid pro quo.   Usually, when what amounts to industrial intelligence flows one way, kickbacks flow the other way.  The Charbonneau Commission in Quebec emphasizes that point.  The Ernst and Young report does not suggest there were any kickbacks in the fire halls fiasco.

Determination of whether there was any guid pro quo goes beyond the scope of an audit and would require an in-depth criminal investigation or a Commission of Inquiry.   It would be highly unusual for any of the principals at the heart of an audit to come out and make a ‘mea culpa’ declaration.

What is Power?

Power is the ability to influence the actions of others.  An example of the exercise of power could be a municipal mayor (Sam) who, when selecting a CAO, prevailing on the other members of the selection committee (EPC) to select the candidate of his choice.  In such an instance the mayor does not have the authority to order members of EPC to take a particular position, but he,  none the less has power as he controls appointments to the committee.

What is Authority?

Authority is the legal right to act.  In the case at hand the CAO is given legal authority to undertake a wide variety of actions on behalf of the City under guidelines laid down by Council.

Concentration of Power and Authority

When Phil Sheegle was appointed CAO the Mayor bristled at the suggestion he was not qualified to perform the function.   The Ernst and Young report suggests the mayor’s detractors were spot on.  As well the mayor would have us believe that he and the former CAO, although they are close friends do not have discussions about city related issues like the fire hall fiasco and the related land swaps.  Do these two buddies look like they hold much back from each other?

Sam and Phil

It is clear that when the mayor appoints a ‘mini me’ CAO there is a dangerous convergence of power and authority.  It puts the mayor in the position wielding political power, as well as administrative authority by proxy.

The Next Mini Me

The mayor has already indicated that his choice to fill the CAO’s chair in an acting capacity is Deepak Joshi – yes the same Deepak Joshi named in the Ernst and Young Report.  One would have hoped that the members of EPC would have learned from the last appointment that the mayor’s choice may not be the best choice.  We cannot afford another mini me CAO.

What’s to be done?

It’s time that Winnipegers wake up to the realization that Mayor Katz may actually have been truthful when he said that he was a businessman and not a politician.  The problem may be that he views the City of Winnipeg as his business, his own little fiefdom, putting in place cronies to help him run ‘his business’.  That begs the question, to whose benefit is the city being run, the citizens’ benefit or the mayor’s benefit?  To a degree we are all responsible for what is happening at City Hall:  we elected Sam Katz, not once but several times.  It may be time for like-minded people to get together and initiate a movement under the banner “ANYONE BUT SAM” and clean up the mess at City Hall.

 

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police Part – V

Several years ago the Winnipeg Police Service (read Mayor Katz) decided that Winnipeg needed (read wanted) a helicopter.  At that time  I wrote a series of posts commenting on the decision-making process employed to determine whether the police service should acquire a helicopter,  as well as the nuts and bolts of running a flight operations unit.

Links to the previous posts are listed here:

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police – Part I

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police – Part II

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police Part – III

A Helicopter for the Winnipeg Police Part – IV

Selling Helicopters Not Naming Rights

Can a Police Helicopter Make Pursuits Safer

The Winnipeg Police Service recently issued the 2012  Flight Operations Unit Annual Report.

It is of some interest to note that the Flight Operations Unit is the only unit within the Police Service that issues an in-depth annual report,  separate and apart from the normal Winnipeg Police Service Annual Report.   Perhaps this is a forerunner of other unit annual reports to come.   I’m being facetious of course.

The only reason the Flight Operations Unit issues a stand alone annual report is to justify the initial capital and subsequent  ongoing operational expenditures of the unit.  The real purpose of the report is to demonstrate that the original decision to purchase a helicopter was a good one.

Although I have not dissected the report in detail I have noticed a number of interesting points.

When the helicopter idea was being ‘sold’ to the public,  politicians and police officials talked about the helicopter being in the air 4 to 5 hours a day.  The 2012 reports shows 2.7 hours of flight time per day.

One of the primary reasons originally cited for acquiring a  helicopter,  was  to deal with Winnipeg’s ongoing problem of auto theft.  A helicopter it was argued would be very beneficial in terms of discouraging auto theft and, in cases where cars had been stolen,  tracking stolen vehicles on the road and assisting in the arrest of auto thieves.

In a previous post I argued that if the Police Service operated a helicopter it would only be available to assist in approximately 12% of stolen car chases.  At the time, some questioned my calculations and subsequent estimate.  Turns out I did indeed miscalculated…. by 2%.     In 2012 the police helicopter was available to assist in a total of 5 pursuits which works out to  just under 14% of the total number of car chases that took place.

And what happened to the promise in terms of the positive effect a helicopter would have on auto theft rates in Winnipeg?  In  the last 12 months auto theft has gone up 10%, this during a period that the Flight Operations Unit was up and running.  This comes on the heels of many years of double-digit declines  thanks to the Auto Theft strategy.

And things are not looking better for 2013.  Although the numbers are still small this early in the  year, the rate of auto theft in Winnipeg climbed 23% so far this year when compared to the same period last year.

Also of interest is the cost per “arrest” in which the helicopter played a role.  Based strictly on the operating budget the Unit spent $1,327,950.00 in 2012.  Based on that figure the cost per arrest that the unit  ‘assisted‘ with  is in the range of $7200.00.  If, however, the capital depreciation cost of the  helicopter is factored in then the cost of operating the unit is more in the range of $ 1, 727,590.00 and the cost per arrest jumps to $9300.00. *

Contrast that with the cost and the results generated by the  Warrant Apprehension Unit.  They also get bad guys off the street – not by ‘assisting’  or being in the vicinity but by actually going out into the street, and doing investigations and apprehensions.  The cost of that unit is in the range of $ .8 million and with an arrest rate of approximately 800 per year, the cost per arrest is in the range of $1000.00, a far cry from $9300.00.

Were an additional $1,727,590.00 allocated to the Warrant Apprehension Unit  at $1000.00 a head they could have arrested an additional 1700 criminals.  That would be a somewhat better return on the dollar than the 285 arrests the Flight Operations Unit  ‘assisted’ with.

*  I’m not suggesting that the number of arrests should be the only criteria used to measure the performance of the Unit.  However,  based on the fact that all but one of the anecdotal examples of Unit activities cited in the report involve arrests,  it is obvious that the Winnipeg Police Service sees this as one of the primary, if not the prime function of the Unit.

Will the Winnipeg Police Association’s Endorsement of The Mayor Become a Cost to Taxpayers?

Perhaps a better question would be, how much will it cost us and are we about to be “SAMMED” AGAIN?

During the 2010 civic election the Winnipeg Police Association endorsed Mayor Sam Katz.  The announcement that the WPA was endorsing the Mayor coincidentally came on the same day that the Mayor announced he was adding 58 additional police and 19 staff positions  to the Police Service complement.  The  timing was  no doubt a coincidence (not) but it’s  one of those coincidences that voters have come to expect when an incumbent is running for reelection.  

Whenever unions support politicians there is some expectation that there will be a return on their investment.   Sometimes it is  favourable legislation, sometimes it is the creation of more positions which result in a direct benefit, in this case an increase in union dues (77 positions translates into approximately $40,000.00 in union dues – not exactly chump change).   In Canada one does not necessarily think about politicians meeting in hotel rooms and receiving brown paper envelopes stuffed with cash (e.g.  Karlheinz Schreiber and  Brian Mulroney) as a common occurrence.  Usually, at least in the cases that come to public attention it is less brazen.  The fact remains that when politicians make deals in return for support in the form of an endorsement there is  usually some form of quid pro quo.  Something is given, something is received.  Politics is not a zero sum game and politicians and their supporters are not totally altruistic. The unfortunate thing is that the  residual losses required to offset the gains realized by the players (in this case the mayor and the union) are absorbed by the public.

The Winnipeg Police Association already received what many observers consider to be, at the very least, a “down payment” in return for their support – that being the addition of 77 dues paying union positions.

Further, the association has been advocating for years, without success,  to amend the Winnipeg Police Regulations to allow for discipline records to be expunged.  A  few months  ago the association received what could be viewed as a ‘second payment’.    This time it was in the form of favourable legislation resulting in a change to the police regulations as it related to the expunging of discipline records.

Will the Winnipeg Police Association be receiving anything else?

They just might.  In comments to the media the mayor said that police in Winnipeg are under paid and  is quoted as saying, “I can guarantee none of us would do that job for what they get paid”.   Well, perhaps the mayor wouldn’t (he has never struck me as police officer material), but I think many others would, as illustrated by the number of applicants for police positions.   That comment coming from the lips of the mayor during a year when the City will be negotiating a contract with the Winnipeg Police Association could be worth a few bucks to the association.

With negotiations now at a deadlock, arbitration is just around the corner.  I’m willing to wager (only with the approval of the Manitoba Lotteries Commission of course) that  the Association’s lawyers will be using the mayor’s quote as the centerpiece in their attempt to  justify a larger pay increase.

If that scenario were to play out and the arbitrator were to be persuaded to up the award  by, say, a quarter to a half per cent, what would that cost taxpayers?  Answer:  in the range of $375,000.00 to $750,000.00, and that would just be in the first year.  Wage awards, because they are cumulative, are gifts that keep on giving.

That begs the question:  was the mayor’s comment a naive shot from the hip,  a mere slip of the lip or did we just get SAMMED again?