Canada’s public-service mentality must be changed

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Canada’s public-service mentality must be changed

Post by Trooper on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 12:35

It is hard to cut waste and excess when people think there are no problems

By SEAN BRUYEA and DAVID HUTTON (Freelance), The Montreal Gazette, July 6, 2010

The recent announcement of cash rewards for public servants who suggest improvements in the federal government is naive at best and disingenuous at worst, given the prevailing management culture within Canada’s public service.

Canadians have long been soothed by platitudes such as the claim that we have the best federal public service in the world. Unfortunately such hype sidesteps very real and serious government failures and misconduct: the tainted blood scandal, the sponsorship scandal, the billion-dollar gun registry overrun, and the Air India bombing, to mention but a few. Yet this has not stopped the steady flow of feel-good messages fed by the wellspring of Ottawa’s more than two dozen federal departments, claiming all is well in our country’s administration.

How can departments be expected to recognize and tackle problems of waste and inefficiency (and negligence) when their main focus is on persuading the public (and themselves) that there are no problems in the public service? How can employees be expected to suggest opportunities for improvement when such behaviour is often viewed by management as a hostile act and punished accordingly?

Following the sponsorship scandal, a newly-elected Conservative government created the position of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, whose mandate is to protect government whistleblowers and investigate their allegations of wrongdoing. If the commissioner were doing what Parliament has legislated the office to do, one of the most preventable causes of government waste -misconduct by corrupt or incompetent managers -would be fully scrutinized and investigated.

Yet in the three years that her office has been in operation, the commissioner has reported a grand total of zero cases of wrongdoing. This is remarkable considering that she has jurisdiction over about 400,000 federal employees in a system that spends about half a billion dollars every day, on everything from paper clips to patrol boats. Is it possible that no one has seen any wrongdoing, that none of this vast flow of money has been wasted or misappropriated?

If the federal government is working perfectly and there is no wrongdoing, how are any of the public servants going to find inefficiencies in such a bureaucratic paradise? How can a culture that claims everything is working fine admit that it needs fixing or improving?

The reality is most public-service employees want to be valuable contributors to Canada’s prosperity. Most of these employees already have the knowledge and ideas necessary to improve our government. But a culture of fear, control and denial of problems is a powerful deterrent to those who would like to come forward, whether with innovative ideas, to report wrongdoing or simply to report preventable waste.

How intimidating is this culture? Surveys show that more than one in four government employees has experienced harassment in the past two years, most frequently at the hands of their bosses. This epidemic of intimidation has been steadily worsening over the past decade. And far too many who report waste or wrongdoing are subjected to vicious, career-ending reprisals in the workplace, designed to crush and silence them. Departments frequently deploy the full force of their legal resources to attack those who come forward apparently to make an example of them as if they were traitors.

When Foreign Affairs whistleblower Joanna Gualtieri reported waste and extravagance in the department’s accommodations for Canada’s diplomats abroad, she was intimidated, harassed and then forced out of her job. When she was left no option but to take Foreign Affairs to court, government lawyers used endless legal manoeuvres to drag out the pre-trial process forcing her to answer more than 10,500 questions over 12 years.

Seventeen years after she first reported government waste, Justice Department lawyers settled just before the case was to go to court -thus preventing the public from learning the full facts.

In such a culture, why would any government employee risk his or her career to report bureaucratic waste? How can a quest to find efficiencies succeed when blatant management misconduct is covered up and whistleblowers are punished instead of the wrongdoers?

And should we be rewarding already well-paid public servants for merely doing their job?

If there is any hope of improving government efficiency, it is to encourage a culture of ethical behaviour and to foster the individual moral strength necessary so that all feel free to speak out on issues of mismanagement. This process must include vigorously protecting honest employees against reprisals by dishonest or incompetent managers intent on silencing them.

Only then will the federal government start receiving the long-suppressed flood of ideas that can make the bureaucracy more efficient -perhaps even as efficient as Canada’s government claims it is.

Sean Bruyea is a freelance writer and retired Canadian Forces Intelligence Officer who writes about issues of governing with a conscience.

David Hutton is executive director of FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform).

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2010/07/canadas-public-service-mentality-must-be-changed/
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Our public service needs servicing

Post by Trooper on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 12:37

Improvements are hard to make when whistleblowers are punished and misconduct is covered up

By Sean Bruyea and David Hutton, Special to the Vancouver Sun July 14, 2010


The recent announcement of cash rewards for public servants who suggest improvements in the federal government is naive at best and disingenuous at worst, given the prevailing management culture within Canada’s public service.

Canadians have long been soothed by platitudes such as the claim that we have the best federal public service in the world. Unfortunately such hype sidesteps very real and serious government failures and misconduct: the tainted blood scandal, the sponsorship scandal, the billion-dollar gun registry overrun, and the Air India bombing, to mention but a few. Yet this has not stopped the steady flow of feel-good messages fed by the wellspring of Ottawa’s more than two dozen federal departments, claiming all is well in our country’s administration.

How can departments be expected to recognize and tackle problems of waste and inefficiency (and negligence) when their main focus is on persuading the public (and themselves) that there are no problems in the public service? How can employees be expected to suggest opportunities for improvement when such behaviour is often viewed by management as a hostile act and punished accordingly?

Following the sponsorship scandal, a newly elected Conservative government created the position of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, whose mandate is to protect government whistleblowers and investigate their allegations of wrongdoing. If the commissioner were doing what Parliament has legislated the office to do, one of the most preventable causes of government waste — misconduct by corrupt or incompetent managers — would be fully scrutinized and investigated.

Yet in the three years that her office has been in operation, the commissioner has reported a grand total of zero cases of wrongdoing. This is remarkable considering that she has jurisdiction over about 400,000 federal employees in a system that spends about half a billion dollars every day, on everything from paper clips to patrol boats. Is it possible that no one has seen any wrongdoing, that none of this vast flow of money has been wasted or misappropriated?

If the federal government is working perfectly and there is no wrongdoing, how are any of the public servants going to find inefficiencies in such a bureaucratic paradise? How can a culture that claims everything is working fine admit that it needs fixing or improving?

The reality is most public-service employees want to be valuable contributors to Canada’s prosperity.

Most of these employees already have the knowledge and ideas necessary to improve our government. But a culture of fear, control and denial of problems is a powerful deterrent to those who would like to come forward, whether with innovative ideas, to report wrongdoing or simply to report preventable waste.

How intimidating is this culture? Surveys show that more than one in four government employees has experienced harassment in the past two years, most frequently at the hands of their bosses.

This epidemic of intimidation has been steadily worsening over the past decade. And far too many who report waste or wrongdoing are subjected to vicious, career-ending reprisals in the workplace, designed to crush and silence them.

Departments frequently deploy the full force of their legal resources to attack those who come forward apparently to make an example of them as if they were traitors.

When Foreign Affairs whistleblower Joanna Gualtieri reported waste and extravagance in the department’s accommodations for Canada’s diplomats abroad, she was intimidated, harassed and then forced out of her job. When she was left no option but to take Foreign Affairs to court, government lawyers used endless legal manoeuvres to drag out the pre-trial process forcing her to answer more than 10,500 questions over 12 years.

Seventeen years after she first reported government waste, Justice Department lawyers settled just before the case was to go to court — thus preventing the public from learning the full facts.

In such a culture, why would any government employee risk his or her career to report bureaucratic waste?

How can a quest to find efficiencies succeed when blatant management misconduct is covered up and whistleblowers are punished instead of the wrongdoers?

And should we be rewarding already well-paid public servants for merely doing their job?

If there is any hope of improving government efficiency, it is to encourage a culture of ethical behaviour and to foster the individual moral strength necessary so that all feel free to speak out on issues of mismanagement.

This process must include vigorously protecting honest employees against reprisals by dishonest or incompetent managers intent on silencing them.

Only then will the federal government start receiving the long-suppressed flood of ideas that can make the bureaucracy more efficient — perhaps even as efficient as Canada’s government claims it is.

Sean Bruyea is a freelance writer and retired Canadian Forces Intelligence Officer who writes about issues of governing with a conscience. David Hutton is executive director of FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform).

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2010/07/our-public-service-needs-servicing/
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Feds’ idea to reward public servants with cash doomed

Post by Trooper on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 12:39

Our government has an abysmal record of listening to concerned federal employees brave enough to speak up.

By Sean Bruyea and Allan Cutler-THE HILL TIMES-July 19, 2010

OTTAWA—The federal government’s hope to save money by rewarding public servants with cash incentives for cost-cutting ideas hinges on one integral premise: that they will be willing to come forward and speak out against the status quo.

This premise is even more important as Canada just finished hosting the “accountability”-themed G8 summit. Can the Canadian government speak with confidence that civil servants who dare to hold the government accountable can do so without fear of reprisal?

Unfortunately, our government has an abysmal record of listening to concerned federal employees brave enough to speak up.

Far too many federal employees who care enough to suggest positive change and/or report mismanagement are quickly isolated. Their work and characters are attacked in an effort to wear them down.

Dr. Kenneth Westhues, of the University of Waterloo, has written extensively on this phenomenon of “mobbing.”

His conclusion about such groupthink, animal-like behaviour: It is far more prevalent in the public service than the private sector.

Wherever the mobbing occurs, it is not only devastating to the individual, but also to group morale.

When public servants speak out against mismanagement, we refer to them as “whistleblowers”—a term often negatively imbued.

The government, on its part, is quick to label a whistleblower as someone who has an axe to grind or who is seeking attention.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Research has repeatedly shown that whistleblowers are above-average performers who have a strong belief in moral principles and who are committed to the organization.

Attacking conscientious civil servants who speak serves not only to destroy the will of the employee to continue working, but also such ad hominem attacks cloud the issue confusing most onlookers. However, the government’s message to other employees is clear: people who care enough to speak out are punished.

In consequence: Canadians become disillusioned about the public service as a whole. We tend to perceive most government workers, rightly or wrongly, as anecdotally inefficient, apathetic, selfish, pampered, overpaid and lazy. It is no wonder the Canadian public is far from enthusiastic about rewarding public servants for a job they should already be doing.

How then will a cost-cutting program, which relies upon public servants coming forward, succeed in such an oppressive culture? Such a culture jeopardizes the success of the cash-for-ideas program before it has begun.

The sponsorship scandal in Canada showed us that Canadian civil servants can muster true courage and speak up about mismanagement.

More recently, most Canadians rallied around Richard Colvin. We saw government attacks on Colvin’s character for what they were: attempts to distract us from government mismanagement of the Afghan detainee issue.

This government implemented legislation and a Public Service Integrity Commissioner, purportedly to protect whistleblowers in a civil service where 400,000 employees are responsible for administering more than $50-billion in annual expenditures. However, in the three years since taking office, the commissioner has apparently not found one incident of government wrongdoing, nor has she apparently identified one whistleblower who needed protection.

In such an unsupportive atmosphere, it is unlikely that most federal civil servants will jeopardize their career, retirement, health and dignity to confront a system merely in the hopes of receiving a cash incentive, especially when any protection is either too weak or non-existent.

In this light, what the Canadian public may see as apathy or lethargy in the civil service is instead a culture which breeds unquestioning obedience to managers. This saps the very individualism and innovation which might spawn the creative ideas to save money and report mismanagement.

Imagine instead a government culture which encourages open discussion and cultivates creative suggestions for improvement and cost-cutting. Imagine aggressive laws which protect those who speak up. Imagine a public service integrity commissioner who actively seeks out and supports those who have been threatened, bullied, harassed and intimidated while vigorously investigating and pursuing those who create this culture of fear.

This is the type of government which would see every level of our bureaucracy burst forth with creativity and innovation to inspire efficiency and improve services. This is the kind of government which would be a model of accountability not just for three days in June 2010, but for the entire world for decades to come.

In Denmark and many other countries, a “whistleblower” is honoured and seen as a “witness” to wrongdoing and therefore an agent of positive change.

It makes good economic and social sense to protect those who come forward with innovative ideas, as well as those brave enough to report wrongdoing. In that sense, all government employees could aspire to be “whistleblowers,” responsible for serving the Canadian public as the namesake public service workers truly wish to do.

Sean Bruyea is a freelance writer and retired Canadian Forces intelligence officer. Allan Cutler is the president of Canadians for Accountability, a grassroots organization for whistleblower protection. The column was originally published in The Edmonton Journal.

The Hill Times

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2010/07/feds-idea-to-reward-public-servants-with-cash-doomed/
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Disabled veterans not just another statistic

Post by Trooper on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 12:41

There are 600,000 Canadian Forces veterans. More than 50,000 of them are suffering permanent injuries and will need some form of support for the rest of their lives. Why was this statistical elephant in the room ignored?

By Sean Bruyea -The Hill Times-August 9, 2010

At first glance, an independent and soundly functioning Statistics Canada’s has little in common with the manner in which Canada treats its injured soldiers. However, objective, sound and thorough statistical science has much to do with how we honour the military sacrifices made in Canada’s name.

There are approximately 170,000 World War 2 and Korean War veterans left. How do we know this? Through statistics gathered in the 1971 long census form from Statistics Canada and updated regularly from other Statistics Canada surveys since then. That approximately 1,700 of these veterans are dying each month is the main reason the government is considering reductions in Veterans Affairs Canada, the federal department mandated to care for our injured soldiers and surviving family members.

When Canadians line the Highway of Heroes between Trenton and Toronto, we mourn with a great sense of sadness the lost future of soldiers cut down in their prime. A widely known statistic is the 151 Canadians who have lost their life and the approximately 2000 wounded in Afghanistan since 2002. In spite of every single one of these tragedies, some in the Canadian government are using these relatively small numbers to justify cutbacks in frontline employees at Veterans Affairs.

However, one statistic which was not released in the media discussions about possible cuts to Veterans Affairs: there are 600,000 Canadian Forces veterans who have an average age of 54 and approximately 90,000 serving regular and reserve Canadian Forces personnel. Almost 10% of these ‘statistics’ or more than 50,000 are suffering permanent injuries and will need some form of extended medical care and/or support for the rest of their lives. Why was this statistical elephant in the living room ignored? Was it because government cutbacks are more important than Canada’s legal and sacred commitment to care for our wounded soldiers and their families?

Canada’s mission in Afghanistan has shone a brighter than usual light on the plight of our injured soldiers. What happens when the mission ends and other issues allow Canadians to forget about the cost of caring for its wounded? Accurate statistics about the veteran population are sometimes the only voice to remind Canadians to keep the memory of our veterans alive.

For almost a century prior to April 2006, Canada honoured the non-fatal sacrifices suffered by our men and women in uniform with a lifelong tax-free disability pension. Since April 1, 2006, injured soldiers, including most non-fatal casualties from Afghanistan receive a one-time lump sum amount to compensate for their lifelong injuries.

When the lump sum law was first passed without debate or Committee hearings in the House of Commons, a mere handful of voices (including this author), were the first to oppose the lump sum award. Since that time, all outside government are now calling for a removal of the lump sum in favour of a system similar or identical to the previous lifelong disability pension.

How did Veterans Affairs respond to the outcry from the veteran community? By gathering its own statistics through a survey. According to Minister of Veterans Affairs, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the result of the survey apparently revealed that a lump sum is the “preferred option for the majority of veteran[s]”.

Academics and the veteran community were shocked. How could an injured soldier, many in their 20’s and 30’s, prefer a lump sum which equaled what would have been paid out in as little as 7 years or so by the previous lifelong disability pension?

The answer lies in the fact that Statistics Canada did not carry out the survey, Veterans Affairs bureaucrats did. As such, the quality of the survey and its methodology, and therefore the statistics are not of the highest standard which a survey conducted by Statistics Canada would have otherwise provided.

In the Veterans Affairs survey, only 11% of the lump sum recipients completed the survey and not one of the more than 100,000 veterans who receive the lifelong disability pension were contacted. But the question did not compare the lump sum to the previous lifelong disability award:“If you had a choice, would you prefer to receive your lump sum payment with the same dollar amount as a single payment or as payments over time?”

It is difficult to imagine that someone would prefer to have the same “dollar amount” spread over time and lose potential investment income. Even then, more than one quarter of the respondents preferred to have the amount spread over time. But this is not the issue being hotly debated. The real choice unanimously and loudly voiced by the Royal Canadian Legion, the Veterans Ombudsman, opposition parties and every independent expert witness who testified to Parliament: Would veterans prefer the lump sum which pays a maximum of $276,000 or a lifelong monthly tax free disability pension of approximately $29,000 per year plus amounts for spouses and children and fully indexed to public service salaries?

That’s right; Veterans Affairs survey forgot to ask if the respondents of their survey would like to receive additional amounts for children and spouses, something for which the lump sum does not provide unlike the monthly tax-free disability pension. Furthermore, as the lump sum increases with inflation, those injured soldiers who have already received their payment do not see a penny of that increase. Those receiving a monthly lifelong disability payment, however, receive annual increases in line with federal civil servant salaries or inflation, whichever is greater.

Another statistic not released by Veterans Affairs in this survey: the average lump sum paid out to our injured soldiers over the past five years has been less than $40,000. That is about the price to buy a family minivan. Once the minivan is gone, injured soldiers have nothing to show for disabilities which will last the rest of their lives.

Neither Munir Sheikh, the head of Statistics Canada who resigned over making the long form census voluntary nor Ivan Fellegi, Canada’s world renowned previous Chief Statistician would likely agree Veterans Affairs Canada’s survey was good statistical science. Nevertheless, the government is using the highly distorted statistics from the Veterans Affairs survey to avoid scrapping the lump sum in spite of the outcry of those most affected: disabled veterans and their families.

Similarly, some of the loudest voices in favour of an involuntary long-from census are those Canadians who could be most marginalized by the biased statistics of a ‘voluntary’ long form census: minority, religious as well as physical and mental disability groups.

And, just as in the case of the most seriously disabled veterans, all the groups calling for the involuntary long form census are being ignored by government.

In government, high quality statistics can be used to create valuable programs to give meaning and value to the lives of those who would otherwise be forgotten or more marginalized than they already are.

Disabled veterans and their families know all too well what it is like to be a statistical ping pong ball. School children and those who take the minute or two to honour sacrifice once a year on November 11 mourn and revel in awe at the statistics of the sacrifices our young men and women have paid in blood to make Canada a great country. Fundamental to being a great country are good government practices such as making decisions with objective and sound statistical information.

Sadly, statistics have been skewed to avoid paying for the unavoidable and necessary high cost of caring for our wounded soldiers. Canadians and especially government have a fickle memory when it comes time to finding the money to care for those brave men and women who endure their disabilities in characteristic noble silence.

Objective, sound and thorough statistics ensure that we remember our injured and fallen more than just on November 11 but in every annual budget and across all government departments.

Although Statistics Canada is not an independent, arms length agency, recent government interference shows that it should be made so. An independent Statistics Canada which has up until now commanded the world’s respect has and would set the highest standard for all government departments to ensure that Canada’s ‘constitutional’ promise to care for all, whatever their race, religion, economic status…or disability, in or out of uniform, is fulfilled and their memory is never forgotten.

As a statistic in the population of wounded soldiers, I have a vested interest in ensuring Canada has a sound, independent and world-respected statistical agency so that I am not forgotten.

Sean Bruyea is a free-lance writer and retired Canadian Forces Intelligence Officer who writes about issues of governing with a conscience.

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2010/08/disabled-veterans-not-just-another-statistic/
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Don’t let Ottawa make financial scapegoats of our veterans

Post by Trooper on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 12:42

A veteran is any Canadian who wore a military uniform; their average age is 54 and they are being marginalized

By Sean Bruyea-Special to Globe and Mail Update Published on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2010

As Canada attempts to remain buoyant after the recent economic flood, Ottawa’s rush to cut the cost of government has one very large but often silent group on the chopping block: disabled veterans and their families.

When Canadians hear the word “veteran,” we quickly imagine a blazer-and-beret-clad senior, wavering at attention in the November cold of so many Remembrance Days past. Canada’s Second World War veterans were once more than a million, but their numbers have dwindled with time.

The 165,000 who remain are passing away at the rate of about 1,700 a month. This is the pretext for Ottawa’s planned cuts to Veterans Affairs Canada, the federal department that cares for our injured soldiers and their families. The Minister of Veterans Affairs, Jean-Pierre Blackburn, was quoted as remarking: “I’m just saying that if we have less veterans, we should have less employees, too.”

Is this sound logic or the leading edge of how statistics are to be manipulated at the expense of marginalized Canadians such as disabled veterans?

To answer this, we need to start off understanding the term “veteran.” Contrary to popular belief, in Canada, a “veteran” is any Canadian who wore a military uniform. As such, there are almost 600,000 veterans living among us who never served in the Second World War.

Wherever or whenever those Canadian Forces (CF) veterans served, all agreed to an unwavering willingness to die, as far too many have, in Canada’s name. Today’s reality for our veterans is that almost 10 per cent – 55,000 vets – live with lifelong disabling injuries and their numbers are growing.

But it took almost 50 years for CF veterans to earn the official designation “veteran” from our government. Such petty negligence of our bravest over the past five decades was reflected in an accompanying dearth of programs and benefits for these multiple generations of veterans. Whereas Second World War vets enjoyed a host of programs, such as college and university training, low-interest loans, as well as monetary, farm, land and training grants to help them transition back to civilian life, CF veterans were not so respected. It was not until 2006 that Veterans Affairs began offering but a pale and inadequate reflection of similar programs to CF veterans. And those programs are geared principally toward individuals in the process of leaving the military.

There is still very little assistance for the 600,000 Canadian Forces veterans who have an average age of just 54, and almost nothing for their families, which conservatively must number more than one million Canadians in total.

Currently, front-line workers in Veterans Affairs, such as case managers, have an average of 1,200 to 1,500 disabled clients each, without any significant programs to assist the majority of the large CF veteran population. Case managers in the private work force will attest to the reality that any case load greater than 100 jeopardizes quality of care. And the government is considering cuts to employee numbers at this time?

There is a greater issue here and that is Canada’s willingness to make fiscal sacrifices to care for those injured soldiers or veterans who have already sacrificed so much in Canada’s name. Why is it that the total veteran population in Canada is twice that of Australia, yet Australia provides benefits for twice as many veterans and dependents as Canada? At $12-billion, Australia’s budget for veterans is almost four times as great as Canada’s.

Why is it that Canada’s veteran and aboriginal population are similar in numbers but the budget for Canada’s veterans and their families is almost one quarter of that paid out to support our aboriginal population?

Veterans have run out of answers as to why their sacrifices are treated with such neglect or even cavalier disregard.

Perhaps it all comes down to controlling the message by playing with words. By not defining the word “veteran” in the media, ministers and bureaucrats can erase not just the existence of Canada’s collective memory of what was accomplished and sacrificed by our 600,000 CF veterans, but the government can save money by not funding programs or keeping employees to care for and assist so many veterans who have been forgotten for far too long.

Understandably, most veterans are too proud to protest the government for which they were willing to die. The government knows this and sadly, that is why the cuts have every chance in succeeding.

Sean Bruyea is a retired Canadian Forces intelligence officer.

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2010/08/don%E2%80%99t-let-ottawa-make-financial-scapegoats-of-our-veterans/
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