Alleged preferential treatment of former employer (Referral)

It was alleged that during various procurement processes, a senior-level ministry employee gave preferential treatment to her former employer by awarding contracts to that organization. The matter was referred to a deputy minister, whose investigation concluded that there was no conflict of interest because it had been several years since the employee had worked for that employer. The deputy minister did find that some aspects of the contracts were not in compliance with procurement rules; however, the employee was not responsible for these issues because she relied on her team for procurement advice. While the Commissioner had some concerns about the thoroughness of the investigation, he found that those concerns could be addressed with the following recommendations, which the ministry accepted: 1) that the employee in question seek a conflict of interest determination from her Ethics Executive to ensure that the prior employment was documented, and 2) that the ministry conduct a quality assurance review of all procurement processes to ensure compliance with procurement rules.

Alleged preferential treatment in hiring (Referral)

A discloser alleged that a ministry employee hired colleagues from a former workplace. The matter was referred to the deputy minister, who determined that the allegation was not substantiated. The investigation revealed that while the ministry employee did know the individuals from a prior workplace, he did not have a close personal relationship with them and he followed the proper hiring procedures (for example, human resources screened the applications and other interviewers participated in the recruitment processes). After seeking additional information and clarification from the deputy minister, the Commissioner determined that he was satisfied with the investigation and closed the file.

Alleged use of employment for self-benefit and holding outside employment (Referral)

A discloser alleged that a ministry employee breached the Conflict of Interest Rules by using a relationship with a ministry client to obtain part-time employment outside of the public service and by holding that outside employment. The matter was referred to the deputy minister, who, after an investigation, determined that the allegations were unfounded. The deputy minister found that the employee obtained the position without the assistance of the ministry client. The employee’s Ethics Executive had approved the outside employment prior to the employee accepting the job. The Commissioner was satisfied with the investigation and closed the file.

Alleged mismanagement of government resources and failure to disclose a conflict of interest (Referral)

A number of current and former public servants at an agency complained that a senior official bullied and harassed employees, resulting in a toxic work environment. Some employees also alleged that the official failed to report a conflict of interest when making funding decisions relating to an external organization, assigned work that was unrelated to the business of the agency and failed to follow proper protocols regarding a marketing initiative. The deputy minister who investigated the matter found that the main allegations about widespread harassment and bullying were not substantiated; however, the investigation did reveal that some of the official’s conduct, while insufficient to create a toxic work environment, fell below the standard expected in a respectful workplace. The deputy minister also found that:

  • The official used government resources to make his expense reports, which are public, less responsive to Internet searches.
  • The official failed to notify his Ethics Executive that he had a potential conflict of interest regarding an external partner with which his agency did business.
  • Proper protocols were not followed regarding the procurement of a marketing initiative.

The official is no longer with the Ontario Public Service. The Commissioner found that he was satisfied with the investigation but recommended that the deputy minister consider whether the agency staff required training regarding conflicts of interest and the government’s Respectful Workplace Policy.