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About Health Canada

Disclosure of Founded Cases of Wrongdoing

Health Canada is committed to strengthening the integrity of the federal public service by fostering an environment in which employees may disclose possible wrongdoing and be protected from reprisal for having made such a disclosure.

The goal of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA), which came into force on April 15, 2007, is not only to provide direction as to what constitutes wrongdoing in a federal government organization, but also to encourage public servants to come forward if they have reason to believe that serious wrongdoing has taken place. When wrongdoing is reported to a manager or to the department's Internal Disclosure Office, an investigation takes place.

Under the PSDPA, wrongdoing is defined as a contravention of any law, the misuse of public funds or a public asset, gross mismanagement in the public sector, a serious breach of a code of conduct, an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons or the environment, and knowingly directing or counselling a person to commit wrongdoing.
The PSDPA protects those making a disclosure against reprisal and provides a fair and objective process for those accused of wrongdoing.

When a disclosure of wrongdoing is deemed to be founded by departmental officials, public access is provided to information regarding the wrongdoing. This information must contain a description of the wrongdoing, recommendations in relation to the wrongdoing and corrective action taken in relation to the finding of wrongdoing or the reason why no corrective action was taken. The names of persons involved are only to be disclosed if necessary to adequately describe the wrongdoing.

The Canada Public Service Agency Web site contains more information on the Next link will take you to another Web site Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

The cases described below are being proactively disclosed by Health Canada.

2008

Case 1 - Misuse of public funds or a public asset, Section 8(b) of the PSPDA

Description

Health Canada's Internal Disclosure Office received a complaint of wrongdoing by a Health Canada employee. It was alleged the employee used a government vehicle for personal purposes.

Findings and conclusion

The Internal Disclosure Office conducted an investigation of the allegations that included interviews and the examination of relevant documentation. It is concluded that the allegation is founded, since the government vehicle remained at the employee's residence while the individual was on extended leave.

The investigation concludes that the employee's actions constitute a wrongdoing under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act in relation to section 8(a), "misuse of public funds or a public asset".

Recommendations and corrective measures

It is recommended that Health Canada senior officials ensure that the employee reimburse the cost of the gasoline used for personal purposes, and that management review the administrative practices concerning the storage of government vehicles on employees' premises.

Management agrees with the report's recommendations and has developed an action plan to address the recommendations.

2014

Case 1 - Contravention of an Act of Parliament, Section 8(a) of the PSPDA

Description

Health Canada's Internal Disclosure Office received allegations of wrongdoing by a Director in one of the Department's regions. It was alleged that the Director:

  • instructed employees to split acquisition card purchases in order to circumvent the $5,000 per transaction limit set in policy;
  • instructed three acquisition cardholders to give their cards to a casual worker, to enable the splitting of a purchase of equipment; and,
  • authorized the final payment on two contracts without evidence of having received the stated deliverables.

Findings and conclusion

The Internal Disclosure Office conducted an investigation of the allegations that included interviews and the examination of relevant documentation. It is concluded that the allegations are founded with respect to the acquisition cards and one of the contracts. It is also found that, in many instances, the Director procured goods and services without contracts  and authorized their payment by the issuance of "confirming orders",  a permitted procedure meant to be used only in exceptional circumstances.

The investigation concludes that the Director's actions constitute a wrongdoing under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act in relation to section 8(a), "a contravention of any Act of Parliament", because of improper certifications made under the Financial Administration Act regarding approval of invoices for payment.

Recommendations and corrective measures

It is recommended that Health Canada senior officials:

  • determine the need for appropriate measures to be taken, given the conclusions regarding the  Director's actions;
  • ensure that the Region's employees are reminded of the proper use of acquisition cards and the proper approval of invoices for payment under the Financial Administration Act; and,
  • ensure that appropriate remedial measures are established and communicated for instances where repeated confirming orders are used.

Management agrees with the report's recommendations and has developed an action plan to address the recommendations.

Case 2 - Misuse of public funds or a public asset, Section 8(b) of the PSPDA

Description

Health Canada's Internal Disclosure Office received a complaint of wrongdoing by a Director in one of the Department's regions. It was alleged the Director used contribution agreement funding to cover the cost of special events where:

  • departmental employees conducted the event planning and implementation that the recipient was funded to do;
  • contribution funding, instead of operations and maintenance (O&M), was used to pay for expenses related to departmental employees; and,
  • some events included hospitality (meals and refreshments) that avoided additional scrutiny for this category of sensitive expenditures by being funded through a contribution agreement.

Findings and conclusion

The Internal Disclosure Office conducted an investigation of the complaint that included interviews and the examination of relevant documentation. It was concluded that the allegation of inappropriate use of contribution agreements by the Director was founded.  Furthermore, given the extent of the inappropriate use, it was also concluded that this constituted a wrongdoing in the sense of "misuse of public funds or a public asset", under section 8 (b) of the Public Servant Disclosure Protection Act.

Recommendations and corrective measures

It was recommended that Health Canada senior officials:

  • determine the need for appropriate measures in relation to the above conclusions regarding the Director's actions;
  • ensure that in this particular Region, as well as in other regions where necessary:
    • regional finance reviews current and future amendments to contribution agreements to identify and respond to any instances of inappropriate use of agreements to fund special events such as training for Health Canada employees and hospitality;  
    • policy directives and oversight mechanisms are strengthened for prevention and early detection of misuse of contribution agreement funding; and,
    • messages are communicated and training is provided to all regional employees who are involved in activities related to contribution agreement funds and their amendments and on the proper use of contracts, contribution agreements and hospitality and related policies.

Management agrees with the report's recommendations and has developed an action plan to address the recommendations.