Saturday, April 09, 2016

Fraud in the government?

In an article entitled, “Fraud: government credit card used for spas, restaurants,” Dean Beeby outlines how a Health Canada employee had charged close to $20,000 to his/her government credit cards for spa visits, restaurants, clothing, and home improvement items, as well as performed cash withdrawals.  To make matters worse, this same employee collected and pocketed charitable donations solicited from co-workers.  Auditors found evidence suggesting personal financial stress, so they concluded that this individual shouldn’t have been given the credit cards in the first place.  (Wow!  What a revelation!)  Apparently, this person had been counselled against personal use, but 60 separate transactions later, this case illustrates lax controls and follow-up.

So how did Health Canada resolve the situation?  The worker’s pay was docked in instalments, but Health Canada wound up paying outstanding balances of $11,210.  As for the theft of the donations, there was no payback.  Later, the employee was fired.  And this is considered a resolution?!  A “head-shaker” if I ever did see one!

As a citizen, if I knew that this situation was just an isolated case, I would have chalked it up as an exception.  However, further investigation by the CBC revealed that in 2014-2015, credit-card fraud by public servants was estimated at $180,000, occurring at least 76 times.  Reportedly, in most cases, at least part of the loss has been recovered.  For sure!  Let’s hear it for effective sanctions!  Here we go, round and round on the merry-go-round.

How is it that this kind of fraud/thievery happens in the first place?  Some would say that it’s rooted in a bad combination of personal circumstance and opportunity.  Others would say that personal characteristics are really at the root of this kind of behaviour.  I would like to offer the following hypothesis: Since most, if not all, politicians are liars and thieves, those in power make sure that the sanctions for acts of fraud and theft in government are rather lax.  That way, if ever they are caught for such behaviour, they too are able to get away with it.  Nothing like the truth to set us free!  If you disagree, you can always blame it on fast foods!

- B. J. T. Pepin