3 fired after tips to City of Ottawa fraud line

·2 min read
Auditors received 204 complaints through the city's fraud and waste hotline in 2020. (Kristy Nease/CBC - image credit)
Auditors received 204 complaints through the city's fraud and waste hotline in 2020. (Kristy Nease/CBC - image credit)

Three City of Ottawa employees were fired from their jobs last year, including one person who took six weeks of annual leave without reporting those absences.

Every year, some 200 anonymous tips are sent to the city's fraud and waste hotline, and the auditor general's report on the few dozen substantiated complaints offer a picture of misbehaviour or misuse of public funds while on the job.

Some complaints by employees and members of the public lead to bigger investigations, such as the reports the audit team released last fall into how OC Transpo trains its drivers and maintains its vehicles.

A summary of complaints dealt with in 2020 goes before audit committee on May 25, and includes three cases in which employees were terminated, plus another three that led to suspensions.

In one case, an employee took 32 annual leave days over a number of years without recording it in the system. An investigation found that one manager was verbally approving their vacation and counting on the employee to submit it. The employee's actual manager was located in a different office and was unaware the employee had taken leave without claiming those days.

The employee was even paid out at the end of the year for surplus of vacation days. The city terminated the employee and recovered $7,800.

In another case, an employee was handing in medical notes and claiming sick leave from the city while working for another organization. The third case involved a new employee on probation who was doing work for their private business on city time.

Other examples that did not cause employees to lose their jobs included:

  • Two employees washed their own vehicles using city property and denied it, but there was video proof and they were suspended without pay.

  • An employee played golf during a workday and later had to claim it as leave.

  • An employee used a city vehicle to do their own shopping during work hours.

  • In a social media post during work hours, an employee suggested colleagues should make holes in their face masks.

  • After checking with their supervisor, an employee took an exercise machine home while a facility was closed for the pandemic. The employee will now have to pay for its maintenance.

The auditor also noted one instance during an unspecified major construction project that led to delays and $177,000 in extra costs. A decision to change the design of several crosswalks hadn't been communicated properly, the auditors said.

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