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Ombudsman's office sees increase in whistleblower disclosures

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Last year saw a dramatic increase in whistleblower disclosures compared to previous years, Manitoba’s Ombudsman says.

In a report released today, Acting Ombudsman Mel Holley said his received 47 disclosures of wrongdoing, which resulted in 16 investigations in 2013. Last year there were only eight investigations.

Holley said. "What strikes us is that some of them are pretty serious," Holley said. "We believe this demonstrates a growing confidence in the (whistleblower) legislation." The legislation was brought in in April 2007.

Examples of disclosures include abuse to and risk to health and safety, fraudulent income, inappropriate conduct and favoritism in hiring.

Holley also released his office’s 2013 annual report under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and The Personal Health Information Act (PHIA).

The office opened 210 complaints for investigation under FIPPA and PHIA in 2013.

Highlights include:

  • A case in which several employees of the City of Winnipeg believed that the Winnipeg Parking Authority was collecting too much personal information in order to issue parking permits.
  • A case that highlights how the Winnipeg Police Service met FIPPA's duty to assist an applicant making a request for access to a large number of records which included his name and the name of his group.
  • A case in which the University of Manitoba initially withheld its entire contract with Xerox Canada for the provision of managed print services. The ombudsman found that much of the information in the contract was publicly available from the parties, or standard contractual terms and general information, which should have been released.

"We have also highlighted several cases in this annual report that demonstrate the variety of complaints made to our office about municipal government under The Ombudsman Act," Holley said. "An analysis of the numbers and types of municipal complaints we received suggests a growing interest in accountability at the local government level."

Highlights include:

  • A case in which a municipality failed to meet its responsibility for by-law enforcement, resulting in a significant cost to a resident.
  • Two cases involving municipal building permits. In one case, a municipality failed to notify residents in a timely manner that their building permit had been issued in error, only notifying them after construction of a home had begun. In another case, a resident's new build on land purchased from a municipality after obtaining the necessary permit was subsequently found to be encroaching on adjacent municipal property.
  • A case in which the government was asked to reconsider its decision after a farmer was denied a rebate under The Fuel Tax Act for using unmarked fuel for his agriculture operations.
  • A case involving numerous complaints about changes to the role of pharmacy technicians in Manitoba. While the office concluded that there was no alleged maladministration that would warrant an ombudsman investigation, the office was able to provide information to the complainants about the basis for the changes, as well as information about educational requirements of the newly regulated profession.

The full reports are available at ombudsman.mb.ca.

History

Updated on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 5:27 PM CDT: Adds ombudsman report website link

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