After being denied vacation, a city employee put in for sick leave and went on a big motorcycle trip.
Caught on video stealing supplies, another city employee came clean to the theft and retired.
Busted for using a city-issued cell phone for sketchy things, a different employee was handed a whopping 20-day suspension without pay.
These are some of the highlights from the 2019 report on the city’s confidential fraud and waste hotline recently released by auditor general Ken Hughes.
The hotline received 224 tips in 2019 by phone and through the hotline’s website . Of those, 54 per cent came from city employees and the rest came from the public. Like previous years, the category with the most tips was “unauthorized use or misuse of city property, information or time” at 53.
Investigations into those tips can take weeks or longer, depending on the nature and complexity of the work.
Some investigations produce separate reports, like the one released by Hughes this week related to training for OC Transpo bus drivers .
The AG conducted 99 investigations in 2019 and substantiated details in 46 per cent of the tips that alleged fraud or waste. Other tips were factually accurate but the activities weren’t fraud or waste, or the tips were simply inaccurate. An additional 122 tips didn’t have enough information to be investigated or were outside of the AG’s purview.
The batch of tips in 2019 included complaints about employees going to a private gym on work time, using a city vehicle to go shopping on Christmas Eve, receiving treatment in a salon while in uniform, booking a meeting room on a regular basis to play cards, leaving work without reporting the absences and posting a seniority list on Instagram.
The employee who was denied vacation and took sick leave went on a 800-kilometre motorcycle ride, violating doctor-endorsed medical restrictions on a functional ability form, the AG discovered. The employee received a five-day suspension without pay.
As for the employee using a city cell phone for “inappropriate behaviour,” the AG found the activities (and there were multiple instances) were either a harm to people or a potential harm. The AG’s report didn’t go into details about the behaviour, but it was categorized as “physical or mental harm or potential harm to employees or others relating to violence, threat, discrimination or harassment.”
Sometimes, questionable city decisions are put under the microscope, especially when they come with unrecoverable costs.
The AG found that the city spent $7,500 to reverse a $679,000 plan to turn a traffic lane into a bus-only lane during peak periods. Public feedback made the city change its mind about the lane, whose location isn’t identified in the AG report. Management still intends to implement the bus lane at a later date and have the larger investment pay off, the report says.
The severity of the complaints to the fraud and waste hotline span the spectrum, forcing the AG to look into matters that probably should be first addressed by managers. In one case, someone filed a tip about two employees wearing scented products to work. In another case, a tip complained about an employee smoking near the doors of the building.
There were a few examples of inappropriate cash handling and straight-out theft. One employee resigned after being caught stealing an undetermined amount of money during cash-handling duties.
The AG also looks into allegations about people collecting welfare when they shouldn’t be receiving social assistance. There were five cases closed in 2019, including one that ended with someone having to end a rent-geared-to-income arrangement and pay market rent.
There were also cases where residents were using the hotline to squeal on neighbours, as in the case of someone complaining about a resident building a backyard shed without a building permit.
The fraud and waste hotline has been around for 15 years. It was launched as an internal snitch line for municipal employees before it was opened to tips from the public in 2009.
It’s Hughes’s last fraud and waste report — his seven-year term ends at the end of 2020. A council committee led by Mayor Jim Watson has approved a secret list of potential successors to interview in the coming weeks.