Allegations of municipal fraud, waste higher than ever: Toronto Auditor General

Toronto’s Auditor General received more complaints of wrongdoing through its waste hotline last year than ever before — and in some cases, city workers were fired for fraud.

The 1,032 reports of municipal waste represented a 26 per cent increase over the previous year, and a record high since the program was established in 2002.

“We’re in a tough budget year, and I’m looking at every dollar,” budget chief Gary Crawford told CTV Toronto Thursday. “We see wasted money in the city.”

In some cases, the misuse of Toronto tax dollars came at the hands of city workers, according to the auditor’s investigation.

In one case, an employee lied about their job, earnings, and household status to fraudulently collect $86,000 in municipal subsidies – while working full-time for the city. The employee was fired, and the city is pursuing criminal charges.

Another city employee was found to have used their position to unlawfully approve a project that was beyond their job jurisdiction, and connected to their personal business. The employee didn’t declare a conflict of interest, altered city records, and resigned before they could be disciplined for breach of trust.

The auditor also investigated reports of time theft among city staff and, in one instance, determined that an employee was working a second job at a landscaping company during work hours. The employee had submitted incorrect timesheets, and was caught through city vehicle GPS data; they were suspended.

In another instance, a city employee was found to have fraudulently used sick days in order to work a second job. That employee was terminated.

“When people see instances of fraud and waste, they want to be sure that government is taking action to eliminate those instances,” audit committee chair Stephen Holyday told CTV News Toronto.

“While any example of fraud and waste makes your blood boil when you read about it, the hotline is working,” Mayor John Tory’s office said in a statement. “This hotline saves our City money, helps safeguard against fraud, helps hold any possible fraudsters accountable, and helps to recover taxpayers’ dollars.”

The rise in complaints to the hotline comes as city council prepares to sign off on the biggest tax hike since amalgamation due to unprecedented budget pressures.

“More so than ever, when we’re coming around asking for seven-per cent tax increase, people want to know that services are delivered efficiently, that any instances of fraud and waste are being dealt with swiftly,” Holyday said.

The audit committee will address the findings Feb. 13. 

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