Massage chairs, HD TVs billed as gov't office supplies
Published Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:03PM EST
A regional manager at Human Resources Skills Development Canada abused the public purse by appointing a close friend to a vacant position and billing taxpayers for such things at massage chairs and flat-screen TVs that were never used.
Those are the findings of the federal public-sector integrity commissioner, Mario Dion, who released his report to Parliament on Thursday.
The investigation found that many of the employees who worked in the Western Canada and Territories Region of HRSDC considered the unnamed female manager to be an "autocrat" and a "bully" who threatened revenge on any employee who questioned her.
Dion's probe also found that the manager selected a close family friend who was living in the manager's home to fill a position in a satellite office over 200 km away, even though there was already a qualified candidate already living close to that office.
As well, the investigation found that the child of the manager was provided with "opportunities" to collect significant overtime and to bill for such costs as mileage, meals, and private accommodation.
"The manager's conduct was found to have been unreasonable and unacceptable," the report says.
Among other violations the investigation found:
- The manager approved purchases of non-work-related items with government funds from the Manager's own personal business. These items included water bottles that, according to witnesses, cost $80 each.
- The manager approved purchases of massagers and magnets for magnetic therapy used by the Manager "to balance the employee's magnetic fields."
- The manager bought massage chairs that were largely unused, including one that was stored in a men's washroom at one of the satellite offices.
- The manager bought two HD TV's that were never used and which were found in the manager's residence.
Dion's report concludes that the manager was able to get away with many of these activities because there were few oversight mechanisms within the HRSDC.
The report says there were lax policies that allowed the manager to misuse government funds, claim phoney expenses and bully staff.
"I strongly encourage all public-sector employees to read this report to understand the importance of respecting all legislation, policies, procedures and guidelines in the course of their day-to-day work and to always conduct themselves in an ethical manner consistent with their duties and with the expectations of the public they serve," Dion wrote.
The report from Dion marks the first time the office has found a case of wrongdoing in the civil service since he was appointed to the job in December 2011.
During her 38 months as commissioner, Dion's predecessor, Christiane Ouimet, investigated only seven of 228 allegations submitted to the office, and never found any wrongdoing.