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This article was published 11/6/2019 (399 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The number of complaints from the public to the City of Winnipeg’s fraud and waste hotline more than doubled between 2016 and 2018, but most of those were found to be without merit.
A report to Tuesday’s executive policy committee noted there were 114 complaints to the hotline in 2018, up from 84 in 2017 and 56 in 2016.
City auditor Bryan Mansky, whose department compiled the report, told councillors he believed most of the increases were the result of the public’s growing awareness of the hotline, rather than a corresponding increase in incidents of fraud or waste among civic departments.
Mansky said the city has increased efforts to promote the existence of the hotline, and "that is helping to grow the overall (public) awareness."
City hall established the hotline in July 2013, but didn’t actively promote and disclose its existence until December 2014.
The report notes most of the complaints (62) in 2018 involved allegations of theft, embezzlement or fraud; another 25 alleged violations of "laws, regulations, policies, procedures."
Mansky said many of the complaints didn’t affect civic services and were awarded to other agencies.
Between 2017 and 2018, the report found only five complaints could be substantiated, with 112 found to be unsubstantiated.
The most serious incident noted in the report involved the theft of time by a civic employee, which resulted in a suspension and approximately $2,500 recovered. (Mansky said he could not recall which department was involved.)
The report noted another incident of potential time theft, where "all department staff were reminded to abide by the department’s lunch and coffee break scheduling policy. Department management met with all employees to reinforce the department’s policies on the length and scheduling of breaks."
The time theft incidents echo a major internal probe taking place in the building inspections division of the planning department. A group of private citizens recently hired a private investigations firm to track inspectors’ daily work habits and found many of them put in as little as three hours a day on the job, with the rest of the time engaged in personal errands, shopping, and lengthy coffee and lunch breaks.
Another incident noted in the city auditor's report involved the theft of city property, which was subsequently recovered and the department "took appropriate disciplinary action."
A recent Winnipeg Police Service report noted a 32-year-old civic employee in the water and waste department was charged in April with the theft of a decommissioned fire hydrant, copper piping and propane tanks.
The thefts were reported to police, following a complaint to the fraud and waste hotline.
The city confirmed the employee had been suspended without pay pending completion on an internal investigation.
— with files from Ryan Thorpe
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