City of Regina to introduce protections for whistleblowers, modernize internal policies

Regina City Manager Chris Holden speaks Monday about updating internal policies. Derek Putz / Global News

The City of Regina is updating the internal policies governing employees, adding specific protections for whistleblowers.

“It’s hard to say as an employer that you have instances that haven’t come forward because you don’t actually know,” Chris Holden, the city’s manager, said Monday in an interview. “Do we have employees who maybe are aware of something who haven’t brought it forward? Quite possibly.

“Moving forward, this will ensure employees feel 100 per cent comfortable in bringing forward a concern.”

Holden said the city is aiming to implement the new Whistleblower Policy in March, along with a Theft and Fraud Policy and an updated code of conduct.

The city’s current code of conduct — established in 2002 — is in the form of a bylaw. A report going to council’s executive committee Wednesday asks to have the bylaw amended to make way for a more modern and flexible corporate policy that addresses issues, such as social media, that the current iteration does not.

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The draft of the updated code of conduct document covers: conflicts of interest, interactions with others, theft and fraud, management of information, outside employment/business interests, gifts, employment of relatives and personal relationships in the workplace as well as political, community and outside activities and a process for dealing with violations.

Saskatchewan’s Cities Act requires all municipalities to have these types of mechanisms in place.

READ MORE: Proposed amendments to the Cities Act ‘concerning’ for City of Saskatoon

“I’d say we’re not behind, but I’d also say we’re not leading out in front in terms of the whistleblower piece, in particular,” Holden said.

“I think just society’s changed. With access to information, all of the things that get reported on social media,” Holden said. “I think there’s more of a need now for employers to be able to ensure their employees that if they come forward, that there will be confidentiality and that there will not be reprisal.”

The city manager will appoint a delegate, either another staff member or a third party, to investigate an employee claim “depending on the severity of what they’ve identified,” Holden said.

Technology has also made it easier for those with malicious intent to engage in criminal activity, such as fraud, Holden noted.

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Last year, Saskatoon lost (and then recovered) more than $1 million in a fraud scheme.

While that incident was not the catalyst for Regina’s Theft and Fraud Policy, “it’s fairly easy in this day and age to manipulate, impersonate,” Holden said. “And it just takes one weak moment by an employee and what happened in Saskatoon could happen anywhere.”

Saskatoon is taking a look at its internal policies as well. While it has announced changes to better protect against fraud, it is still evaluating it’s whistleblower protections.

Saskatoon’s human resources officer said in an email to Global News that administration is finalizing a report on the matter that will be up for discussion later this year.