Yellowknife council supports anonymous whistleblowing

Yellowknife City Hall pictured in September 2015. File photo.
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Yellowknife councillors want to make it easier for city staff to report any wrongdoings in the workplace anonymously.

On Monday night, council supported a motion to develop a whistleblowing policy whereby complaints can be made to an independent third party reporting system online.

This comes after council directed administration to evaluate options for a new whistleblower policy in November of last year.

According to the city, whistleblowing is defined as the “disclosure by a person, usually an employee in a government agency or private enterprise, to the public or to those in authority, of mismanagement, corruption, illegality, or some other wrongdoing.”

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Currently, the NWT is the only territory that doesn’t have whistleblower legislation.

“We all know that whistleblowing is intended to support reporting misconduct of an employee or superior,” said councillor Linda Bussey, who voted in favour of the motion.

As part of the policy, councillors say senior managers need to ensure there is no room for retaliation towards whistleblowers and employees are safe to raise any concerns they may have.

Anonymous complaints a statement of mistrust?

Right now, complaints are made directly to either the head of a department, the Human Resources department or the city’s senior administrative officer.

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A potential downside of a separate whistleblower policy is that it would make it easier for people to make ‘frivolous’ or ‘vexatious’ complaints without any consequences.

Administration also fears such a measure could be viewed as a statement of mistrust towards management and senior management working for the city.

On Monday, an amendment put forward by councillor Rebecca Alty to forego a third party reporting system was shot down by her colleagues.

Alty questioned why the city would want to spend $9,000 in additional costs per year on new software when staff can already make anonymous complaints online.

And that figure might not even tell the whole story since city staff will have to assume a greater workload to manage the system and address any complaints made.

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