The Québec Ombudsman's 2022-2023 Annual Report - News release 4 - Public bodies investigated for public integrity improve their practices
QUÉBEC, Sept. 21, 2023 /CNW/ - In his 2022-2023 Annual Report, Québec Ombudsman Marc-André Dowd presents disclosures and investigations that shed light on wrongdoing in government departments and agencies. The favouritism, mismanagement of public funds and conflicts of interest reported by whistleblowers prompted the Québec Ombudsman to investigate the events and recommend corrective measures to put an end to the situations exposed.
This aspect of the Québec Ombudsman's role stems from the Act to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoings relating to public bodies. To protect the confidentiality inherent in integrity investigations, as a matter of course, the Québec Ombudsman does not name the individuals or organizations concerned.
"This year, there were two cases for which confidentiality was not required because the facts had already been made public," Mr. Dowd indicated. "I'm talking about the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ) and the Sûreté du Québec (SQ). Both have been investigated by us and are now collaborating actively in implementing our recommendations."
Exceptions to the rule
Three parallel investigations were conducted concerning MAPAQ and one of its partner organizations, the Centre de recherche sur les grains (CÉROM). The first investigation confirmed that a member of CÉROM's board of directors had failed to comply with the ethical and professional standards that should have guided his practices. A second investigation concluded that a CÉROM authority had committed financial abuse. Lastly, the third investigation showed that MAPAQ had not acted properly to put an end to these irregularities. In light of the Québec Ombudsman's findings in these three investigations, MAPAQ has taken the necessary steps to correct the situation.
When new managers were appointed to the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), there was an outcry against the culture of favouritism in the workplace. Its investigation completed, the Québec Ombudsman concluded that SQ authorities had gotten around the applicable rules by allocating positions and promotions to individuals of their choice, even going so far as to change the internal staffing policy. Following our recommendations, SQ implemented measures to improve its management staffing process and to ensure compliance with it.
Other public investigation cases include one in which a health and social services network authority bought equipment which the organization did not need, as reported by whistleblowers. The Québec Ombudsman's investigation showed that this person had breached procurement rules and the principles of sound management of the public purse.
A few figures
In 2022-2023, the Québec Ombudsman received 249 requests related to wrongdoing disclosures:
12 reprisal complaints;
18 requests for access to legal advice;
52 requests for assistance;
1 request for an exemption.
The Québec Ombudsman acts in strict confidence in handling disclosures of wrongdoing within or about public bodies, as well as reprisal complaints related to a disclosure or cooperation in an investigation.
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