Whistleblowers’ complaints not taken seriously

The auditor general is calling for dozens of abandoned whistleblower complaints to be re-examined because the former public sector integrity commissioner failed to do her job.

OTTAWA — The auditor general is calling for dozens of abandoned whistleblower complaints to be re-examined because the former public sector integrity commissioner failed to do her job.

Sheila Fraser issued a scathing report Thursday on Christiane Ouimet’s tenure as the parliamentary officer responsible for investigating reports by bureaucrats of government wrongdoing.

Fraser said Ouimet berated and harassed staff, leading to some former employees reporting health problems after dealing with her.

Ouimet went as far as compiling a 375-page binder of personal and professional information about an ex-employee, which she circulated within her agency and to three other government bodies, as well as to the private sector. The ex-employee said Ouimet was retaliating against him because she believed he had complained about her to the auditor general.

“I find this obviously very troubling and I think very disappointing that an officer of Parliament, in a relatively new mandate and a new office, that this situation has occurred,” Fraser told a news conference.

The review was prompted by three internal complaints in 2008 and 2009 about Ouimet’s behaviour and failure to perform her duties.

There has also been widespread public criticism of the office for failing to do anything with more than 170 allegations of wrongdoing in the public service brought forward since the post was created in 2007. That includes the case of military veteran Sean Bruyea, who has since received an apology from the federal government for the way bureaucrats handled his file.

Fraser found that Ouimet had a reluctance to investigate files and didn’t implement procedures on how to review complaints. The choice to dismiss many of the 86 complaints reviewed by the audit was made without enough work being done, the report found.

“I think it is necessary for the commission to review the files and to provide assurance to Parliament, to Canadians and especially to those people who brought forward the allegations that they have been dealt with seriously and in a credible manner,” Fraser said.

A spokesperson for the commission said it will be up to the new integrity commissioner to determine whether the files could be reopened. Sylvie Lecompte said it’s expected a new commissioner will be appointed soon.