OTTAWA — Disgraced integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet says the auditor general’s report that led to her surprise resignation was neither fair nor accurate.
Testifying under oath, with her lawyer by her side, Ouimet told a House of Commons committee that auditor general Sheila Fraser’s December report was flawed.
“I’m here to point out that there are serious flaws and erroneous facts that have attacked my reputation,” she said Thursday in her first public statement since the controversy over her departure erupted.
The report said Ouimet bullied and intimidated her staff and failed to fulfil her mandate to protect public service whistleblowers.
Ouimet resigned with a lucrative severance package two months before the report was released.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday a half-million dollar payout to Ouimet was the cheapest and fastest way to get rid of her.
He said the government couldn’t just fire her.
Some of her former staff who quit because of conditions in her office have complained that Ouimet got a golden parachute while they gave up benefits. She denied, however, that her deal was overly generous.
“I lost seven years income, seven years pension,” she told the MPs. “I lost my reputation. I lost my health.”
She said she received death threats and her health suffered due to Fraser’s extensive two-year investigation of her office.
When the government presented her with a “non-negotiable” offer to quit with a separation allowance, she reluctantly accepted it.
Harper on Thursday defended the decision to offer Ouimet the package.
“It is not a good situation, but our power to act was limited,” he said following an event in Toronto.
He said federal lawyers advised that the best way to hasten Ouimet’s departure was to pay her more than $500,000 in a separation agreement that bound her to secrecy.
“The government accepted advice from its lawyers (on) what was the best, the cheapest and the fastest way to make a change so that office could get on with the job it’s supposed to be doing.”
The separation agreement was signed last Oct. 7 and Ouimet announced her resignation shortly thereafter — two months before Fraser’s scathing report was issued.
The report found that 228 allegations of wrongdoing or complaints of reprisals against whistleblowers were brought to Ouimet’s office during her three-year tenure. However, only seven were actually investigated and no findings of wrongdoing were ever made.
Harper said alternatives to negotiating a separation agreement “were more expensive and would have taken longer and we’d still not be looking into the whistle-blower cases that are supposed to be looked at.”