29th November 2023

The Department of National Defence (DND) is guilty of ‘gross mismanagement’ and breaking ethics law, says a new report from the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada.

“The results of our investigation are troubling. Public servants must be able to have confidence in their senior leadership,” Commissioner Joe Friday said in a media statement Tuesday.

The report looked into whistleblowers’ allegations that senior managers at DND were not giving the public timely access to information about founded cases of wrongdoing at the department.

“Commissioner Friday concluded that DND committed gross mismanagement and contravened the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act,” Friday’s office said in a media statement Tuesday.

According to Treasury Board of Canada rules, once a case of wrongdoing has been confirmed, the department has 60 days to release information about the offence to the public.

Friday’s office said his probe revealed three instances where DND missed its disclosure deadline — in one case by almost four years.

The three instances of wrongdoing occurred between 2015 and 2020, the year the investigation was launched. None of the findings related to the incidents were made public until 2021 or 2022.

The first case took 18 months to report, the second 20 months and the third 43 months, the report said. 

“Founded cases of wrongdoing were not being published, and in some cases, whistleblowers were not being informed of the outcome of internal investigations in a timely manner,” Friday said.

“In one case, files had been provided to management for final decision, ‘never to be seen again.'”

Lack of clarity on incidents

A number of founded disclosures of wrongdoing have been published on DND’s website. It’s not clear which cases are related to the commissioner’s report.

CBC News has asked DND for clarification but has yet to receive a response.

The list of verified cases of wrongdoing going back to 2009 on the DND website includes instances of CAF members: 

  • Mishandling workplace harassment and violence investigations.
  • Engaging in acts of reprisal against members who made complaints against their supervisor.
  • Putting themselves in a conflict of interest.
  • Misusing public property or public funds.
  • Failing to properly document and investigate disciplinary and administrative measures.

Commissioner’s recommendations

Friday said his office’s investigation uncovered a pattern of wrongdoing not being reported, leaving public servants feeling there was no point in reporting because “there will be no consequences for wrongdoers and things will never change.”

“It is not clear that the report would have ever been published if our investigation was not launched,” Friday said, noting that his probe found no “necessary or reasonable” reason for the delays.

The report recommends DND make some changes by:

  • Establishing a training program for employees and senior managers;
  • Implementing an audit program to keep track of investigations and cases;
  • Undertaking a yearly evaluation of the process for three years to ensure the program is being managed properly.

Bill Matthews, deputy minister at DND, accepted the recommendations and said the department is committed to making changes so “employees have confidence in coming forward with a disclosure of wrongdoing.”

“DND is grateful for the work of the Public Service Integrity Commissioner and is committed to working with the Commissioner’s Office as recommendations are implemented,” Matthews’ response to the report said.