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The following is an analysis of the PSIC case management database covering all cases closed between April 15, 2007 (when the Act came into force) and December 19, 2010.
This analysis serves two purposes: it provides some insight into OPSIC operations during this period; and it illustrates the value of this kind of information, which can and should be publicly available to enable parliament and civil society to monitor the performance of this agency.
We asked several questions that could be wholly or partially answered by our analysis:
- what types of allegation were received?
- what types of staff handled the cases, both to examine the evidence and then to make a final decision?
- how long did it take to handle cases, from receipt to closure?
- what reasons were given for closing cases?
The types of wrongdoing most commonly cited were: contravention of an Act of Parliament (41%), gross mismanagement (24%), misuse of public funds (20%) and a serious breach of the code of conduct (9%). A few alleged a "substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, or to the environment" (5%) or directing someone to commit wrongdoing (2%).
Note: our analysis captures the principal (first-mentioned) category. Most cases cite multiple categories: if all of these were counted the percentages would be higher. For example misuse of public funds was the principal allegation in 20% of cases, but was one of the allegations in 29% of cases.
The types of reprisal most often cited were: termination of employment (25%), adverse actions [which would include harassment, bogus performance reviews, etc.] (25%), and disciplinary measures (24%). A few cases cite demotion (7%) or threats of reprisal (6%). The rest (12%) were specified as ‘other’.
Cases were examined by a mix of staff: investigators (47%), lawyers (31%) and analysts (22%).
The final decision to close cases was made by Ouimet in most cases (60%), or by a lawyer (20%), or by a registrar or disclosure analyst (14%).
Although almost half (47%) of cases had been examined by an investigator, the investigator was rarely the decision-maker in closing cases (only 6% of the time).
The seven cases that were investigated
Five investigations of alleged wrongdoing were undertaken. These took on average almost 18 months (17.4 months) to complete and to close the case. Two investigations of alleged reprisals were undertaken. These took on average just under a year (11.7 months) to complete and to close the case.
Disclosures of wrongdoing took on average 4.9 months to close, and complaints of reprisal on average 2.3 months. However behind these averages there are large variations: 43 cases (19% of the total) took more than 6 months to close, and ten cases (4%) took more than a year (see table below).
Cases that took more than a year to close (sorted by duration)
|* Includes time with PSIO|
The very first case received (file #15, a disclosure of wrongdoing) was studied by PSIC for 29 months before being closed. By this time the disclosure was 53 months old – it was inherited from the PSIO, the previous integrity office, and had been the subject of a judicial review that ordered a new investigation. The rationale for closing case #15 is given on pages 17-18 of the PSIC 2008 Annual Report.
The next two cases received (file #16 and file #38 both complaints of reprisal) were studied by PSIC for more than 9 months before being closed, by which time they were 14 and 30 months old respectively. The rationale for closing case #38 is given on pages 25- 26 of the PSIC 2009 annual report.
Two cases (#398 and #407) that were not investigated took close to two years to close.
Allegations of wrongdoing were closed because: there is a ‘valid reason’ for not dealing with it (40% of cases), the matter has been or could be dealt with by someone else (34%), the matter is being dealt with by someone else (10%), too much time has elapsed (4%), investigation would involve obtaining information from the private sector (4%), the matter refers to a ‘balanced and informed decision making process on a public policy issue’ (3%), there is a reason not to investigate or it is not in the public interest (1%), or it is not sufficiently important (1%).
Allegations of reprisal were closed because: the matter is beyond the jurisdiction of the Commissioner (57% of cases), it has been or could be dealt with by someone else or by a grievance (25%), it is being dealt with by someone else or by a grievance (11%), or the applicant missed the 60-day deadline to file with the Commissioner and the Commissioner did not exercise her discretion to waive this deadline (7%).
How to find your own case in the database
Letters sent by PSIC have a reference code like this: PSIC-2009-S33-635. The last 2-3 digits are your file number, which is the first column in the spreadsheet.
The two preceding groups of digits are a) the year received and b) the type of case. This may be R (reprisal), D (disclosure of wrongdoing), or S33 (wrongdoing reported under section 33 i.e. by someone who is not a public servant).
Types of analysis
Most of our analyses are done using 'pivot tables', which generate cross-tabulations. Other techniques that can also be used are sorts (sorting the database by a field), filtering (restricting the view to records with a certain content, such as 'Yes' in the 'Investigated' field) and searches (e.g. to find all records containing a certain legal section reverence).