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ARCHIVED - The Financial Administration Act: Responding to Non-compliance - Meeting the Expectations of Canadians

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3. Investigations

The review examined options and ways to strengthen administrative investigative processes applied to instances of possible mismanagement. It examined those processes principally as they relate to the imposition of disciplinary sanctions. During the review, staff relations officers, consultants who have been involved in investigations on behalf of the government, managers, lawyers who have used investigation products, police forces and Crown prosecutors, and departmental investigators were consulted and bargaining agents were invited to participate in discussions on the subject.

Within the broader framework of addressing mismanagement of funds and non-compliance in the federal Public Service, the investigatory process is crucial. Investigations serve to substantiate allegations (or not, depending on the evidence) and to identify wrongdoers, by way of gathering evidence through interviews and document compilation. They also serve to determine causal or facilitating factors for the misconduct, thereby playing a role in preventing reoccurrence of the situation that may have led to the misconduct having been committed. Finally, a promptly and properly conducted investigation will raise employee confidence in the employer and morale in the workplace.

Treasury Board publications provide limited guidance in the area of investigations. In fact, other than the Treasury Board Guidelines for Discipline, there are no government-wide policies or procedures on administrative investigations. Over time, however, a variety of duties and obligations have been established for both the employer and the employee, through accepted practices, clauses in collective agreements, and decisions of administrative tribunals, principally the Public Service Labour Relations Board. 

The employer's duties and obligations encompass such things as promptly investigating in the event of an incident or a complaint. All avenues of information and evidence must be explored during the process. The employer must also give sufficient notice of the investigation to the employee. This notice must contain specific information on the allegations and indicate the consequences of an adverse decision. Employees have the duty to participate in meetings and to provide all relevant information pertaining to the employee's possible defence; they also have the obligation not to cause undue delays.

Through the consultations and interviews held in the review process, a number of areas where improvement would be desirable were identified:

  • Managers trained in the conduct of investigations or qualified investigators are not always available. This is particularly an issue outside of large urban areas or within smaller operations.
  • Staff relations personnel and investigators called upon to perform administrative investigations do not always have sufficient training or uniform guidelines.
  • It is not uncommon to have both criminal and administrative investigations occurring simultaneously or one occurring immediately after the other. This leads to confusion about the rights and responsibilities of managers in regard to the administrative investigation.
  • Investigations are not always carried out in a timely manner, in part because of the other reasons outlined here.
  • Investigators and managers do not always have access to or knowledge of the findings of other government entities examining the same events (internal audits, various ombudsmen, the Auditor General of Canada, security investigations, disclosure officers, etc.), nor are all the players equally knowledgeable about each other's role and methods.

Perhaps the biggest shortcoming in the area of administrative investigation is the unequal access to investigators trained in the conduct of administrative investigations and knowledgeable about the Public Service. Many departments rely on managers to conduct complex investigations. Others rely on investigators who have been trained as police officers and who are not familiar with the particular nature of administrative investigations.