Public Values

Public service professionals call for stronger protection of whistleblowers

Auditor General's report on public sector integrity a "wake-up call."

Luc Pomerleau: federal scientist fired by government in 2008 for revealing food safety concerns.Ottawa, ON (December 13, 2010) — "The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) applauds the work of Auditor General Sheila Fraser, whose recent report points to nothing less than a lack of integrity within the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada (PSIC)," says PIPSC in a December 13, 2010 press release. Ms. Fraser's report shines the light on the poor work environment prevalent in the Office and on the lack of convincing action on its part since it was established in 2007. According to PIPSC, it also reflects the climate of fear and intimidation that increasingly pervades Canada's professional public service. PIPSC President Gary Corbett wonders what typical public servants can expect from the Office if it is known for its inaction.

Corbett says that it is sad and unfortunate that the results of the Auditor-General's investigation corroborate what PIPSC has been saying for years — that there is a serious problem in the public service when it comes to protecting whistleblowers who use their professional knowledge in service to the public. Corbett also thinks that it is particularly disturbing that something like this can happen at the highest levels of the bureaucracy and in an organization that was for all intents and purposes established to protect public servants. "It clearly demonstrates the need for some sort of truly independent office and for more action on the government's part to protect those who do the right thing in the line of duty," says Corbett.

The report shows that the number of cases brought to the attention of the Office since its inception is substantial. "Ironically," says PIPSC in its press release, "none of the complaints have resulted in any conclusion of wrongdoing, a result that not only undermines the Office's credibility, but also serves to dissuade other public service employees from reporting questionable activities or inappropriate behaviour."

"This report is a wake-up call to those who believe that public servants have it easy", maintains Corbett. "Nowhere in the private sector do we find this type of behaviour, where employee complaints are so completely ignored. It's no wonder that we see reports of increasing illness within the ranks of the public service. Where are ethical employees to turn to? This is an opportunity to take stock of the situation so as to ensure, once and for all, that public service professionals can do their job without fear of reprisal."

PIPSC has always been a strong advocate of effective legislation to protect whistleblowers, and it was cautiously optimistic when the government made the issue one of its first orders of business. "Yet," says PIPSC, "it has since become clear that the effectiveness of this critical piece of legislation is easily undermined. We are eager to see how the government will correct the situation."

"As key stakeholders, our members are ready to work with the government and with the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner towards the development and implementation of real solutions to this ongoing and pervasive issue," concludes Corbett.

Posted: December 20, 2010

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