By Doug Hallett
In a close vote, council has decided to take a close look at the idea of creating a “tip line” that would allow both city employees and residents to report their concerns about city operations.
Coun. Cam Guthrie proposed the idea. He said a tip line would provide a way to report concerns about fraud, waste and abuse of city assets. The city’s front-line staff could use it to “report things that are going on in the organization,” he told council.
“Our front-line staff are the ones that see it and breathe it every day.” They should have this sort of opportunity to communicate what they see, he said.
His motion to have city staff investigate the idea and report back to council’s governance committee was approved 6-5.
Guthrie said it has been estimated that a typical Canadian organization loses five per cent of its revenue to fraud every year.
Mayor Karen Farbridge voted against the motion. She echoed city CAO Ann Pappert’s assertion that the city’s internal auditor can deal with fraud.
“The fraud issue is well covered by that,” she said.
Farbridge also noted that council will soon look at whether the city should hire an ombudsman, which would be another way of dealing with concerns about city hall operations.
Pappert said the city is also starting three initiatives related to creating a “more trustful, open environment” for city employees.
One of these is a CAO blog that allows employees to communicate with the CAO on a one-to-one basis, in a confidential but not anonymous way, she said.
Another is an “open door” program that will provide an anonymous way for employees to communicate concerns to management.
The third is a test of a “dragon’s den” concept at city hall, where employees will be able to pitch their ideas for efficiencies and have those new ideas “juried by their peers,” Pappert said.
Guthrie said the cost of tip lines elsewhere range from $6,000 a year up to as much as $200,000 a year.
Coun. Maggie Laidlaw said that tip lines are a “fairly old-fashioned method” of dealing with such issues and that they can adversely affect staff morale.
Coun. Gloria Kovach said she couldn’t understand why council wouldn’t welcome something like a tip line, to provide an alternative to communicating concerns via computer.
Voting for the motion were Guthrie, Kovach and councillors Bob Bell, Ian Findlay, Jim Furfaro and Andy Van Hellemond.
Voting no were Farbridge, Laidlaw and councillors Todd Dennis, June Hofland and Karl Wettstein. Absent were councillors Lise Burcher and Leanne Piper.
By Doug Hallett