Ottawa, September 30, 2020
Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion released the Report on alleged wrongdoing by a deputy minister: Referral from the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. It concerns a matter referred to him in February 2020 by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and was released under section 68 of the Conflict of Interest Act.
Two allegations were made by a number of federal department employees against their Deputy Minister. The report does not identify the disclosers or the Deputy Minister, as Commissioner Dion determined there would be no benefit in doing so. All deputy ministers are appointed to their position by a Governor in Council appointment which makes them subject to the Conflict of Interest Act as reporting public office holders, including section 19 which states compliance with the Act is a condition of appointment or employment.
The first allegation in this matter was that the Deputy Minister interfered in the hiring process for a senior level position in their department to benefit a friend. The second was that they intervened in an internal investigation conducted under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
Commissioner Dion found that the second allegation was not relevant to the Conflict of Interest Act and did not consider it further as it was outside of his mandate. After obtaining and evaluating additional information about the first allegation pertaining to the hiring process, he had no reason to believe that the Deputy Minister may have contravened the Act, and therefore decided not to initiate an examination.
He now considers the matter closed.
Quotes from Commissioner Dion
“The most senior public servants, including deputy ministers, must comply with the Conflict of Interest Act. Like ministers and other public office holders, they may also be the subject of investigation requests."
“Section 68 of the Conflict of Interest Act provides an additional oversight mechanism that seeks to ensure appointed officials, no matter how senior, meet their obligations under the Act. Our Office reviews all referrals from the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner very thoroughly and reports on them publicly."
“Despite the additional challenges that resulted from the pandemic, I am pleased we are still able to move forward with our investigative processes in a timely manner. I believe it is fair to all parties that we examine these matters promptly."
“Referrals from the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner are just one aspect of our Office's administration of Canada's federal conflict of interest regimes. We provide regulatees with rigorous and consistent direction and advice, conduct investigations and, where necessary, make use of appropriate sanctions in order to ensure full compliance with the Conflict of Interest Act and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons."
When a referral is made by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner is required under section 68 of the Conflict of Interest Act to issue a report, whether or not an investigation is launched.
Like all of the Commissioner's reports under the Act, reports on referrals from the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner are provided to the Prime Minister and made public. The individuals who brought this matter forward and the Deputy Minister have been provided a copy of the report.
The Office has reported on 12 referrals from the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to date. Four of them resulted in examinations.
The Report on alleged wrongdoing by a deputy minister sets out the facts in question, the analysis of the situation and the conclusions.
The Conflict of Interest Act applies to individuals appointed to public office by the Governor in Council. Public office holders are in a conflict of interest when they exercise an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further their private interests or those of relatives or friends, or to improperly further another person's private interests.
General information about other investigations under the Act, including how the Commissioner deals with investigation requests, is available here.
The Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act establishes a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings. It applies to most of the federal public sector—approximately 400,000 public servants.
The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner was created under the Federal Accountability Act. The Commissioner applies the Conflict of Interest Act for public office holders and the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons.
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