A recent report from the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada has found that the Department of National Defence (DND) is responsible for "gross mismanagement" and has violated ethics laws.
"The results of our investigation are troubling. Public servants must be able to have confidence in their senior leadership," said Commissioner Joe Friday on Tuesday in a statement to the press.
According to the CBC, the inquiry focused on allegations from whistleblowers claiming that senior managers within DND were not promptly providing the public with information regarding confirmed instances of wrongdoing within the department. Commissioner Friday's investigation concluded that DND had engaged in gross mismanagement and had contravened the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
Under Treasury Board of Canada regulations, once an instance of wrongdoing is confirmed, the department has a 60-day window to disclose information about the offence to the public. The investigation revealed three specific instances where DND failed to meet this disclosure deadline, with one case delayed by nearly four years. These instances of wrongdoing took place between 2015 and 2020, and the findings were not made public until 2021 or 2022.
The report detailed significant delays in reporting these cases, with the first taking 18 months to be disclosed, the second 20 months, and the third a staggering 43 months.
"Founded cases of wrongdoing were not being published, and in some cases, whistleblowers were not being informed of the outcome of internal investigations in a timely manner," Friday said.
The DND's website does list disclosures of wrongdoing going back to 2009, but it is not clear if these are related to the commissioner's report. Those verified cases include reports of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members misusing public funds, mishandling workplace harassment allegations and putting themselves in conflicts of interests, among other issues.
Commissioner Friday's report found that there was a pattern of wrongdoing not being reported which led public servants to feel there was "no point" in reporting incidents since "there will be no consequences for wrongdoers and things will never change."
The report's recommendations include:
- Establishing a training program for employees and senior managers.
- Implementing an audit program to monitor investigations and cases.
- Conducting a yearly evaluation of the process for three years to ensure proper program management.
Bill Matthews, deputy minister at DND, accepted the recommendations, stating the department is committed to making changes so that "employees have confidence in coming forward with a disclosure of wrongdoing."
"DND is grateful for the work of the Public Service Integrity Commissioner and is committed to working with the Commissioner's Office as recommendations are implemented," said Matthews' response to the report.
The DND featured in a separate report from the Ottawa Citizen on Tuesday, where it was revealed that the number of times the department has claimed that documents requested under the Access to Information law don’t exist has more than doubled during the last eight years.