The Calgary Municipal Building.
Leah Hennel / Postmedia
The city’s whistleblower program was busy in 2018, investigating a significant increase in substantiated conflict-of-interest allegations and respectful workplace complaints compared with the previous year, according to the municipal auditor’s office annual report.New data presented at council’s audit committee Thursday shows a total of 34 whistleblower investigations were completed in 2018, with the auditor’s office seeking 63 “corrective actions” in response — including disciplinary action, verbal apologies and additional training.The auditor’s report highlighted a 51 per cent increase in investigations that required corrective action compared with 2017.“The nature of whistleblower concerns is it’s quite frankly unpredictable,” city auditor Kathy Palmer told the committee Thursday. “We could have a period of time when the perception may be, ‘all is well’ (and) we don’t hear anything. And then we have other days when the phone is ringing quite rapidly.”The vast majority of corrective action was prompted by substantiated allegations of conflicts of interest, typically situations “where an employee’s ability to objectively perform their civic duties” was questioned; or HR matters regarding a respectful workplace.There were 28 recommendations for corrective action related to conflicts of interest in 2018, compared with just 17 the previous year. There were also 14 recommendations issued for allegations related to respectful workplace complaints, compared with zero in the previous year.Anonymous whistleblower reports continue to significantly outnumber reports where staff identify themselves; the city received a total of 61 anonymous reports in 2018, and just 22 reports from identified individuals.The increased number of substantiated reports coincided with additional training and awareness programs regarding the city’s code of conduct and conflict-of-interest policy, audit staff said Thursday.Coun. Evan Woolley, who chairs the audit committee, said more substantiated complaints doesn’t necessarily equal more problems.“It might actually mean it’s a better environment. We have to be really careful when we look at what those numbers are,” Woolley said.“In the context of a broader society that is taking these more seriously, taking more corrective action is a good thing for our corporation.”Council approved a $150,000 bump to the city auditor’s office budget for 2019 to improve efficiency and increase the auditor’s responsiveness to requests. An additional $200,000 was approved for the budget in 2020. Currently, 16 staff members are dedicated to completing audits and firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @mpotkins