Corporate Information

Raison d’être

The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada was established to implement the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (the Act), which came into force in April 2007.

The Commissioner reports directly to Parliament, and the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for tabling the Office's Departmental Plan and Departmental Results Report in Parliament.

Mandate and role

The Office contributes to strengthening accountability and increases oversight of government operations by providing:

  • public servants and members of the public with an independent and confidential process for receiving and investigating disclosures of wrongdoing in, or relating to, the federal public sector, and by reporting founded cases to Parliament and making recommendations to chief executives on corrective measures; and
  • public servants and former public servants with a mechanism for handling complaints of reprisal for the purpose of coming to a resolution including referring cases to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal.

Operating context

The Office operates in a complex and sensitive social, legal and public policy environment. Media and public interest have demonstrated the need and growing demand to respond to concerns about integrity in both the private and public sectors. Whistleblowing protection legislation is increasingly being adopted and updated at provincial, territorial and municipal levels, as well as in other countries. The work requires a high degree of care as each case we handle directly impacts the lives, careers and reputations of individuals and organizations. The Office is one element of a larger public sector integrity landscape that includes:

  • Treasury Board Secretariat has overall responsibility for promoting ethical practices in the public sector and for disseminating knowledge about the Act;
  • Federal departments and agencies are responsible for administering these ethical practices and are accountable for establishing their own internal disclosure mechanisms;
  • The Office receives disclosures of wrongdoing and complaints of reprisal from public servants working in federal and Crown corporations, as well as members of the public. The Office has the exclusive jurisdiction for responding to complaints of reprisal that result from protected disclosures.

Key risks

Risks Risk response strategy Link to the department’s Core Responsibilities Link to government‑wide priorities
Impairment of trust, reputation and credibility
There is a risk that any impairment in the Office’s trust relationships, reputation and credibility may impact its ability to deliver on its mandate.
  • Awareness of the risk landscape in which we operate and embed mitigation strategies in our approaches, practices and policies, including oversight.
Public sector disclosures of wrongdoing and complaints of reprisal A transparent, accountable and responsive federal government
Increase in the nature and/or volume of files
There is a risk that the Office may not be able to respond to a change in the nature and/or volume of files.
  • Maintain ongoing case management tracking systems that provide feedback on caseloads and team capacity.
  • Maintain HR capacity and flexibility and support ongoing professional development
Public sector disclosures of wrongdoing and complaints of reprisal A transparent, accountable and responsive federal government
Lack of awareness and/or reluctance to use services
There is a risk that a significant portion of public sector employees may be unaware of our services or be reluctant to use our services for fear of reprisal.
  • Develop material and share information about how we carry out our work
Public sector disclosures of wrongdoing and complaints of reprisal A transparent, accountable and responsive federal government

The three highest risks that create uncertainty in meeting the Office’s plans and results are:

Impairment of trust, reputation and credibility

The Office’s ability to be effective is dependent upon the strength of its trust relationships, reputation and credibility. While every effort is made to ensure that these remain strong, ongoing vigilance is required to ensure that the organization is not caught unable to respond when challenged. In a world of active social media and heightened vigilance in the identification of inappropriate workplace behaviour, and regular external security threats, there exists a threat to organizational reputations. The Office is a service organization that depends on trust relationships and any perceived loss of reputation or credibility could significantly impair the organization's ability to meet its mandate.

Increase in the nature and/or volume of files

The Office is a response-based organization, in that it responds to requests for service in a real-time manner. Any sudden increase in the number of new disclosures and complaints of reprisal and/or increase in the number of investigations launched, would put pressure on existing resources which could result in a backlog if additional resources are not available. If the Office cannot react to a change in file volume, it may result in a decrease in timeliness.

Lack of awareness and/or reluctance

Raising awareness of the Office and of the whistleblowing regime remains a challenge among public servants and members of the Canadian public. We have jurisdiction over approximately 400,000 public servants (including federal departments, Crown Corporations and agencies). Given the challenge of effectively reaching this large and varied audience, we have implemented strategies to increase the Office’s visibility, to facilitate understanding of our processes and approaches, and to build confidence in our Office and in the overall whistleblowing regime. These strategies recognize that making a disclosure of wrongdoing can be a very difficult thing to do.

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of the Act, which has strict provisions to support the protection of information that we receive in the course of carrying out our mandate. Care is taken at all times to be as transparent as possible about our processes and approaches, so that people will know what to expect when they come to our Office, while at the same time respecting confidentiality and assuring potential whistleblowers and reprisal complainants that their information will be protected to the full extent possible under the law.

In addition, the fear of reprisal is something that we recognize and must be sensitive to at all times. This fear is indicated, for example, in surveys conducted within the federal public sector, as well as in our own research paper, “The Sound of Silence”, which we commissioned and published last year. This fear results in the risk of reluctance of potential disclosers in coming forward when they think something is wrong.