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Two city employees fired following tips to Ottawa's fraud and waste hotline in 2022

The city of Ottawa fired two employees with "medical related duties" for submitting falsified vaccination status documents last year following a tip to the city's fraud and waste hotline, according to a new report from the city's auditor general.

Meantime, a city employee voluntarily resigned from the city after an investigation found they used a city vehicle to participate in the 'Freedom Convoy' protest during working hours.

In a report for the June 9 Audit Committee meeting, Auditor General Nathalie Gougeon said 201 tips were filed to the fraud and waste hotline in 2022, down from 301 tips in 2021. Another 1,187 reports that were similar in nature were also reported to the hotline last year.

Of the 210 tips and 1,187 reports similar in nature, 37 per cent came from the public and 63 per cent came from employees.   A total of 61 of the 210 tips were for allegations of "unauthorized use or misuse of city property, information or time."

Gougeon says the results of the investigations included two employees terminated, three employees resigned and two employees suspended without pay.

The report says two city employees were terminated for providing falsified proof of vaccination documents following tips from management.

"In both instances a supervisor had questioned the vaccination documents provided by an employee with medical related duties," Gougeon says in the report, adding management "self-reported" the two cases.

"Both individual’s employment with the City of Ottawa was terminated for providing falsified proof of vaccination documents."

A city of Ottawa employee was also fired in 2021 for submitting falsified vaccination status documents.

Three employees resigned from the city of Ottawa last year following tips to the fraud and waste hotline.

In one case, an employee used, without authorization, a city vehicle to participate in the 'Freedom Convoy' in downtown Ottawa in the winter of 2022 during working hours, the report says.

Gougeon says another employee resigned before management was able to meet with them to discuss allegations the individual was working full time for both the city and one of its suppliers.

In the third resignation case, the report says prior to leaving the city, an employee who had resigned downloaded 405 files to an external device without authorization to do so. Management recovered all city assets, Gougeon said.

Suspended without pay

The auditor general's report says two employees were suspended without pay following tips to the fraud and waste hotline in 2022.

Gougeon says an employee received a 10-day suspension, of which 7 days were unpaid, after they were using a city gym during work hours, without authorization, for approximately an hour a day.

An employee was suspended five days without pay after an employee had drugs at the workplace and was found to have left work to go shopping without recording the absence, and brought home, without authorization, supplies from the workplace for personal use, according to the report.

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.

The auditor general's report says as of Dec. 31, 2022, 51 investigations remained in progress.

Accountability for city staff and taxpayers

Coun. Allan Hubley says the auditor general's reports are important for taxpayers, and leads to accountability at Ottawa City Hall.

"They are very important because it lifts the curtain on things that our residents and employees have raised a concern over, a possibility of fraud or waste," Hubley told CTV News Ottawa.

"So it is very important for the public to see what happens when they make those complaints that they are investigated and there are outcomes."

Hubley adds it is important for the city of Ottawa to be transparent.

"It shows (residents and employees) that they are being listened to. Each report is followed up and also the city is continually trying to do better," Hubley said Thursday.

The office of the auditor general declined to comment on the report until it has been presented to the Audit Committee on June 9. 

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Leah Larocque Top Stories

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