City employees fired after fraud investigation
Published Monday, March 2, 2009 7:02PM EST
Nine City of Toronto employees have been fired after an internal investigation found evidence that false benefits claims were being made.
Officials have refused to identify the employees or the city department they worked for but confirmed the investigation began several weeks ago after they were alerted to suspicious activity by Manulife Financial, the city's benefits provider.
Toronto Mayor David Miller said he's glad swift action was taken.
"I'm pleased that (City Manager) Joe Panachetti and his staff acted immediately to investigate and disciplinary action was taken," he told reporters at a news conference on Monday.
Miller said he wouldn't comment further on the case because the investigation is now in the hands of Toronto police.
The news of the firing came on the same day as the city's audit committee met to discuss an auditor's report on findings from the waste and fraud hotline. In the report, the auditor pointed out 42 cases where employees were involved in waste or wrongdoing.
The report accused employees of making false membership cards to recreational facilities, charging for excessive overtime, taking city property and cancelling parking tickets for friends and family members.
Three people were fired as a result of those allegations. Ten others were suspended without pay and two employees received written reprimands. Six people got a letter of expectation and one person resigned.
"The important thing from my perspective is that the controls were in place and the benefit provider caught this," said Jeffrey Griffiths, Toronto's auditor general.
Coun. Mike Del Grande said he wonders just how widespread the problem is.
"Forty-two out of 51,000 is a small number which begs the question, is it the tip of the iceberg or is it just this small number?"
Police say their investigation into the alleged fraud is in its early stages but that criminal charges could be laid against the former employees.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Naomi Parness