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Ethics Officer - Frequently Asked Questions
What/who is the Ethics Officer?
The Public Service Act (PSA) encourages Government of Nunavut (GN) employees to come forward if they believe that wrongdoing has happened, or is about to happen in the workplace. The GN's Ethics Officer is responsible to review these complaints under the PSA.
When complaints of wrongdoing are not properly addressed through the GN's internal disclosure process, the Ethics Officer receives complaints, conducts investigations as necessary, and recommends action to address disclosures of wrongdoing.
What is a disclosure of wrongdoing?
A disclosure of wrongdoing is a provision of information by a public servant that informs GN officials of another public servant’s behaviour, which fits the definition of wrongdoing as outlined in the PSA. The employee must reasonably believe that the wrongdoing has happened, or is about to happen. Disclosures must be made in good faith and in accordance with the PSA.
Information showing that a public servant has been asked to commit wrongdoing is also considered to be a disclosure of wrongdoing. A disclosure of wrongdoing can trigger an investigation into the alleged incident for follow-up.
When did the disclosure of wrongdoing and the ethics officer in the PSA come into force?
The relevant sections of the PSA came into force on April 1, 2015.
What is the definition of wrongdoing?
The PSA defines wrongdoing as: “any of the following conduct by an employee acting in his or her public service capacity:
(a) contravention of an Act of the Legislative Assembly, the Parliament of Canada or the legislature of a province or territory, or of a regulation made under any such Act;
(b) failure to comply with applicable directives made by the Minister, the Minister responsible for the Financial Administration Act, or the Financial Management Board with respect to management of the public service or public assets for which the employee is responsible;
(c) misuse of public funds or public property;
(d) gross mismanagement of public property or resources for which the employee is responsible, including an act or omission showing a reckless or willful disregard for the proper management of public property or resources;
(e) harassment or verbal or physical abuse of any person other than an employee or violation of the human or contractual rights of any person providing services to or receiving services or information about services of any kind from a department or public body;
(f) an act or omission that creates a substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of persons, to public or private property, or to the natural environment, other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of an employee;
(g) a serious breach of the Code of Values and Ethics;
(h) any act of reprisal against an employee or other person; or
(i) a request, direction or encouragement by a supervisor or senior manager to an employee or by an employee to any other person to commit a wrongdoing set out in paragraphs (a) to (h)”.
For more clarification on what constitutes wrongdoing under this Act, please speak with your senior manager, Employee Relations or the Ethics Officer.
Who can I make my disclosure to?
You can make your disclosure to your senior manager, your deputy head, the deputy minister responsible for the PSA, or any other deputy head. As a public servant, you must follow the Human Resources Manual Directive 209, which explains the internal process for disclosing suspected wrongdoing.
If you feel the process is not working after 30 days, you can bring your disclosure directly to the Ethics Officer. If you believe there is a danger to the life, health or safety of a person, or to property or the environment, you can also disclose wrongdoing directly to the Ethics Officer or to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
It is important to remember that when you make a disclosure under the PSA, you must follow procedures and/or practices for the secure handling, storage, transportation and transmission of information or documents.
Will my identity be protected?
Disclosures made under this act are confidential, but not anonymous. This means that you must include your name when making a disclosure. Measures are taken to prevent the unnecessary release of your name.
How does the disclosure process work?
After an employee makes a disclosure of wrongdoing to their senior manager or deputy's head an investigation is started internally. If after 30 days the issue has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the employee, disclosure can be made to:
- the deputy minister responsible for the PSA;
- any other deputy minister that the employee considers appropriate in the circumstances;
- the Ethics Officer; and
- the police or a law enforcement agency.
Details on the process of disclosure of wrongdoing are available in the Human Resources Manual Directive 209.
What is the definition of "reprisal" under the PSA and how am I protected from reprisal?
The PSA states that no employee is subject to any reprisal or retaliation for making a disclosure.
An act of reprisal against a person includes:
any action, threat or attempt to suspend, demote, dismiss, discharge, expel, intimidate, coerce, evict, terminate a contract to which the person is a party without a cause, commence legal action against, impose a pecuniary or other penalty on or otherwise discriminate against the person because of a disclosure of wrongdoing by that person or because the person assists in the investigation of a disclosure made by another person.
The PSA clearly states that employees are protected. If you suffer reprisal, you can report it directly to the Ethics Officer. This can lead to disciplinary action against the guilty parties.
How do I make a complaint of reprisal?
You may bring your complaint directly to the Ethics Officer. Please complete a disclosure form, which provides the following information:
- the nature of the complaint and why the action would constitute reprisal;
- the name of the person(s) alleged to have committed reprisal action;
- the date and description of the act of reprisal, and any other relevant information; and
- your name, telephone number and address so the Ethics Officer or relevant authority may contact you for more information.
For more information:
- Refer to Part 6 of the Public Service Act
- Refer to Directive 209 of the Human Resources Manual
- Speak with your senior manager or Employee Relations Consultant
- Contact the Ethics Officer:
Nunavut Ethics Officer