Public Sector Integrity Commissioner

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The office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner is one of the Independent Oversight Offices created as part of the Canadian Federal Accountability Act.[1] The purpose of this office is to investigate mismanagement in the public sector.[2] Christiane Ouimet became the first Public Sector Integrity Commissioner when the post was created by the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (S.C. 2005, c. 46) on August 6, 2007.[3]

The Commissioner's third report was released in October 2010, and, for the third year in a row, it revealed that her office found no wrongdoing in the federal public service. In addition, the Office of the Auditor General of Canada announced an audit of the Commissioner's office. Ms. Ouimet retired effective October 18, 2010.[4]

Mario Dion, a former federal parole board chair, was named as the second Public Sector Integrity Commissioner on December 14, 2010.[5]

Reports of founded wrongdoing are presented before the House of Commons and the Senate in accordance with the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

Mechanisms for disclosure[edit]

A disclosure can be made by communicating with a supervisor, a Senior Officer for internal disclosure within an organization or with the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner any information that could show that a wrongdoing was committed or is about to be committed in the federal public sector, or that could show that an individual was asked to commit a wrongdoing. Whether a disclosure is made internally or to PSIC, disclosers are protected from reprisal by the Act. If a discloser is unsatisfied with the outcome of an internal disclosure of suspected wrongdoing, they are still able to disclose directly to PSIC. Wrongdoing is defined as follows:

  • a contravention of any Act of Parliament or of the legislature of a province or any regulations made under any such act;
  • a misuse of public funds or a public asset;
  • a gross mismanagement in the federal public sector;
  • an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, or to the environment, other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of a public servant;
  • a serious breach of a code of conduct (established by Treasury Board or by an organization, as required by the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act - the Act);
  • knowingly directing or counseling a person to commit a wrongdoing as defined above.

Not all disclosures lead to an investigation as the Act sets out the jurisdiction of the Commissioner and gives the option not to investigate under certain circumstances. On the other hand, if PSIC conducts an investigation and finds no wrongdoing was committed, the Commissioner must report his findings to the discloser and to the organization’s chief executive. Also, reports of founded wrongdoing are presented before the House of Commons and the Senate in accordance with the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. As of May 2014, a total of 9 reports have been tabled in Parliament.[6]

Reprisals[edit]

Under the Act, “reprisal” is defined as any of the following measures taken against a public servant because the public servant has made a protected disclosure or has, in good faith, cooperated in an investigation into a disclosure or an investigation commenced under section 33:

  • a disciplinary measure
  • the demotion of the public servant
  • the termination of employment of the public servant, including, in the case of a member of the RCMP, a discharge or dismissal
  • Any measure that adversely affects the employment or working conditions of the public servant
  • A threat to take any measures referred to above

For it to be considered reprisal under the Act, there must be a link between the alleged reprisal actions and the making of a disclosure of wrongdoing or participating in an investigation. The Act states that disclosers must contact the Office within 60 days of knowing that they have been reprised against. The Commissioner must make a decision whether to investigate within 15 days of the complaint being filed and when all the necessary information to complete the assessment has been received. If the investigation leads the Commissioner to believe a reprisal has occurred, he will refer the case to a tribunal composed of provincial and federal judges. The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal has the power to order an appropriate remedy for victims of reprisal.

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