Thursday, March 29, 2007

Zaccardelli: A Coverup?

At least there was enough money to cover Zaccardelli's coaching for his testimony in which he in effect perjured himself. Nothing was done about the RCMP's "mistakes" in the Arar case insofar as punishing anyone was concerned. It seems that internal coverups are equally immune from anyone being held accountable. We shall see what the Iacobucci inquiry comes up with and whether it causes much more than a temporary ripple in the calm polluted waters inhabited by the RCMP big fish.

Zaccardelli may respond to RCMP allegations
Updated Thu. Mar. 29 2007 10:35 AM ET News Staff

Former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli should be given a chance to respond to stunning allegations about corruption and cover-up within the RCMP, says the head of the committee that heard the allegations.

On Wednesday, senior RCMP personnel alleged that senior management has tried to block their investigation into the possible misuse of group insurance and pension funds at the national police force.

During their testimony before the House of Commons public accounts committee, current and former officers pointed the finger at Zaccardelli, among others, for what they say is a cover-up of their investigation.

The allegations sent shockwaves through the committee and dominated headlines Thursday morning.

John Williams, the Alberta Conservative MP who chairs the committee, told Canada AM that Zaccardelli should be given a chance to respond to the allegations.

"I think we have to give him an opportunity to come forward and explain his role," Williams said, adding that his committee could force the former chief to appear.

Williams added though that he's not sure whether his committee is the appropriate forum to get to the bottom of the allegations.

"I think that I would rather see a judicial inquiry into this, because, as I say, the forum of the public accounts can never get to the bottom of this," Williams said.

A team of serving and retired RCMP officers have been, for years now, probing allegations of possible misuse of millions of dollars in members' insurance and pension funds.

There have been no criminal charges so far and very few senior RCMP people have been affected.

On Wednesday, some of the investigating officers alleged that Zaccardelli and others have gone so far as to remove some who were asking uncomfortable questions.

"While trying to expose these wrongdoings, which were both criminal and code of conduct violations, I had face to face meetings and complaints up to and including Commissioner Zaccardelli," alleged Ron Lewis, a retired RCMP staff sergeant.

"I was met with inaction delays, roadblocks, obstruction and lies. The person who orchestrated most of this cover-up was Commissioner Zaccardelli."

RCMP Chief Supt. Fraser MacAulay added: "For the past few years, the RCMP has had a small group of managers who, through their actions and inactions, are responsible for serious breeches in our core values, the RCMP code of conduct and even the Criminal Code."

In blaming the leadership, Lewis alleged, "a culture was created by several senior executives where it was a danger for employees to report wrongdoings."

Williams said he found the accusations stunning.

"The orders from the top seem to be, 'Stay quiet, don't say a word. We're the RCMP; we have to be clean or look like we're clean' -- and they're not clean," he said to CTV News.

CTV News tried to reach Zaccardelli for comment but was unsuccessful.

Hours after the hearing, the deputy commissioner in charge of human resources, Barb George, stepped down. CTV's Graham Richardson reports she will move to another job within the force.

Richardson says Zaccardelli will likely be called to testify in the coming days, given what was heard Wednesday.

Auditor General's report

The allegations stem from a matter already investigated by the Auditor General's office. However, the officers who testified Wednesday said the auditor's timeframe covered only one year, but the problems were spread over several years.

In her November 2006 report, Auditor General Sheila Fraser wrote about fraud and abuse allegations in the management of the RCMP's pension and insurance plans, stemming from 2003.

"In June 2005, the Ottawa Police Service announced that its 15-month investigation had found abuses of the pension and insurance plans, nepotism, wasteful spending, and override of controls by management," the report said.

"Significant unnecessary or wasteful expenditures resulted, including money spent for work of little value. The Crown counsel advised that there was 'no reasonable prospect of conviction on criminal charges'. However, two senior officials of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) resigned, and the RCMP considered disciplinary action against others," the report said.

At the time of that audit, the pension fund had a value of $12.4 billion. The insurance plan had about $30 million on deposit, it said.

Among the report's findings:

The NCPC (National Compensation Policy Centre) Director established consulting contracts valued at over $20 million, overriding controls to avoid competitions for the contracts. These contracts resulted in some work of questionable value being performed, and excessive fees for administrative services of little or no value being charged to the pension plan.
About $3.4 million in improper expenses were charged to the plan
"An estimated $1.3 million was charged to the pension and insurance plans to pay for commissions or products that provided little or no value, and for excessive payments to employees' friends and family members hired as temporary staff." About $270,000 of that had been repaid.
The RCMP persuaded the insurance carrier to subcontract work to a second firm to administer insurance plans on behalf of the RCMP. As a result, there was no competition for a $4.6 million contract.

The RCMP found there were grounds to proceed with disciplinary proceedings against four of its members and civilian employees, but didn't do so because too much time had elapsed, the report said.

"The former Director of NCPC told us that, to his knowledge, RCMP staffing and contracting policies and practices were followed," the report said.

With a report from CTV's Graham Richardson in Ottawa

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