That's rich for Harper to warn Karzai to be more accountable

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Ottawa Citizen – November 23, 2010

Re: Reduce Corruption: Harper To Karzai, Nov. 21.

Stephen Harper's accusation that President Hamid Karzai is not doing enough to clean up corruption is deeply ironic. His own government came to power on a promise to make government more transparent and accountable, yet has gone in the opposite direction on almost every count.

Perhaps the worst example is the so-called "ironclad" protection for whistleblowers -- which has proven to be ironclad protection for deputy ministers, protecting them from whistleblowers.

Research consistently shows that empowering employees to speak out safely is the most effective single anti-corruption mechanism available, but this government has done the opposite.

It passed deeply flawed legislation in 2006 that flatly ignored the advice of experts and then appointed an integrity commissioner whose entire strategy seems to have been designed to find nothing amiss. The result is that, in three years of operation with a staff of more than 20 and an annual budget of $6.5 million, this commissioner has uncovered not a single case of wrongdoing in the entire federal public service -- nor a single case of reprisal against any whistleblower.

Very few cases have even been investigated, and the commissioner has found reasons to dismiss virtually every case brought to her -- including that of Sean Bruyea, the veteran whose confidential medical records were so spectacularly mistreated by Veterans Affairs Canada.

The commissioner abruptly resigned in October, only three years into her seven-year term, and the auditor general is now conducting an investigation into her office. Meanwhile, the whistleblowers who approached her office are in limbo, denied (we believe) due process or investigation of their allegations, while reprisals against them continue unabated.

Harper needs to improve his own track record on transparency and accountability before he earns the right to criticize others.

David W. Hutton,
Ottawa
Executive director
Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (FAIR)

Original article on Ottawa Citizen website