Officials at Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND) repeatedly delayed the disclosure of wrongdoings within the DND and in the Canadian Armed Forces, according to a government watchdog.
In a report tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday, the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada said the DND committed “gross mismanagement” by failing to provide timely public access to information about a founded case of wrongdoing in the Canadian Forces and not advising disclosers of the results of investigations into wrongdoings at the DND and in the CAF.
The DND also violated the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, commissioner Joe Friday said in his report.
This comes after his office, which investigates serious abuses within the federal government, was alerted in 2020 by whistleblowers who alleged that senior managers did not provide prompt public access to a founded case of wrongdoing in the CAF.
An investigation was launched after a second disclosure of wrongdoing was made in 2021.
“The results of our investigation are troubling,” Friday said in a video statement.
“The evidence uncovered and examined during my office’s investigation makes it clear that there was a breakdown in the management of the internal disclosure process at DND and in the Forces, suggesting a systemic problem and a lack of accountability.
“As such, I find that the Department of National Defence committed wrongdoing and that their inaction amounts to a contravention of the law, as well as gross mismanagement.”
The report identified three founded cases of wrongdoing at DND and in the CAF between 2015 and 2020 whose publication was delayed by at least 18 months.
Information about a founded case of wrongdoing following an internal disclosure should normally be made public within 60 days of confirmation, according to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s policy.
In one such case from 2018, the delay in publishing the results of the investigation on DND’s website was pushed by over 43 months.
“Throughout the course of our investigation, the evidence demonstrated a pattern in the internal disclosure process at DND and in the CAF,” the report stated.
“Founded cases of wrongdoing were not being published, and in some cases, disclosers were not being informed of the outcome of internal investigations in a timely manner.”
The commissioner made three recommendations, which were all accepted by the DND.
These included training of all employees so they are aware of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, an audit of the DND’s internal disclosure program as well as yearly evaluation of the internal disclosure process at DND and in the CAF, for a minimum of three years.
The Canadian Armed Forces are in the midst of a recruiting crisis, with officials admitting that the number of applicants coming forward each month is about half what the military needs to meet its targets.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Forces in recent years have also been shaken by what experts have called a sexual misconduct “crisis.”
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