OTTAWA -- Three city of Ottawa employees were fired last year following tips to the city's fraud and waste hotline, one of whom took more than six weeks of vacation without recording it.

Meanwhile, two employees were suspended without pay for washing their personal vehicles on city property.

The hotline was launched in 2005 in order to facilitate the reporting of suspected fraud or waste by municipal employees. It's operated independently by a third party, WhistleBlower Security.

A report for the audit committee shows there were 204 tips to the hotline in 2020, including 114 from municipal employees and 90 from the public.

Three employees were terminated following investigations into tips received by the hotline last year.

The report says one worker was terminated after an investigation revealed that an employee took 32 days of annual leave without recording the absences in the city's human resources system.

"In previous years, this has resulted in a payout to the employee as their year-end leave balance exceeded the maximum carry-forward allowed. The employee was terminated and $7,800 was recovered," said the report.

Staff say another employee was terminated after an investigation showed the individual was working for another organization while claiming sick leave from the city.

A third employee was terminated during their probationary period when staff said the individual was conducting tasks for their private business on city time.

The report says three other employees received suspensions without pay following investigations.

Of the 204 tips to the fraud and waste hotline in 2020, 189 investigations are considered closed. The report says 21 were deemed inaccurate, there was 47 tips with insufficient information to move forward and 61 cases did not fall under the auditor general's purview.

Fifty-six per cent of reports came from city employees. The other 44 per cent came from the public.

Some other investigations through the hotline include:

  • Two employees were suspended without pay for washing their personal vehicles on city property. Staff say the two employees denied washing their personal vehicles using city assets during overtime hours, however, management reviewed video surveillance footage and confirmed the allegation
  • An employee received a verbal warning after using a city pressure washer to clean their personal vehicle
  • An employee drove to their personal residence to take their lunch
  • An employee was given a verbal warning after they posted on their social media account that employees should make holes in their face masks during work hours. The employee was also reminded of the mask training and recent bulletins on mask usage
  • A letter of expectation as placed on an employee's Human Resources file after they were confirmed to be doing personal shopping using a city vehicle during work hours.