Investigation into an alleged kickback scheme found no wrongdoing
A designated officer within the education sector contacted the Public Interest Commissioner’s (PIC) office, seeking advice in relation to a disclosure of wrongdoing that had been received. The designated officer shared concerns that the organization did not have the resources or expertise to conduct an investigation. After consulting with the employee who made the disclosure, all agreed the disclosure would be referred to PIC.
It was alleged an employee entered into a kickback scheme involving an independent contractor. As part of the scheme, it was alleged the employee would complete the work under the contract and receive a portion of the payment made to the contractor.
The investigation sought to determine whether a contravention of an Act had occurred or if public funds were misappropriated through an illegitimate contract, constituting a gross-mismanagement of public funds. For the purpose of the investigation, the designated officer provided over 60,000 electronic files relating to maintenance contracts and email communications. Documents from the time period where the alleged wrongdoings occurred were carefully analyzed. No evidence of a kickback scheme nor questionable contracts or agreements were found, and in the absence of evidence substantiating the allegation, a finding of wrongdoing could not be supported.
It was encouraging to recognize that an employee within the public sector had the confidence in their organization’s internal whistleblower policy to come forward and report a potential wrongdoing. The designated officer need also be commended for contacting the PIC office for assistance and guidance. This positive and collaborative approach to investigations captures the spirit of the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act and promotes public confidence of the organization.