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Health ministry employee made complaint that led to firings

The complaint that led to the firing of seven British Columbia health ministry employees came from somebody within the ministry, according to an auditor general's report released today.

Ministry officials had previously said that the investigation began with an anonymous complaint to the auditor general's office, and that they had since learned the complainant's identity but would not release it publicly.

Summary Report: Results of Completed Projects and Other Matters includes further details. "In March 2012, the Auditor General was anonymously notified about a range of alleged activities within the Pharmaceutical Services Division of the Ministry of Health," the report said. "The information raised questions about compliance with legal and government policy requirements, as well as with good contracting practices."

Auditor General John Doyle's office started an investigation to "validate basic facts and determine whether further work was warranted" and has remained involved as the ministry did its own investigation, it said. "When the whistleblower(s) subsequently came forward (voluntarily), the Auditor General required the party to provide information, in keeping with section 16 of the Auditor General Act."

So far six people have been fired and a seventh has filed a wrongful dismissal and defamation lawsuit against the government saying he was constructively dismissed. At least one other is suing and three former employees who were union members have filed a grievance.

The investigation has also resulted in the stoppage of several research contracts aimed at assessing prescription drugs.

"At the time we were writing this summary, the internal investigation was continuing, as was our Office’s work on the watching brief," the report said. "We will assess the ministry’s response and determine at a future date what further actions may be necessary."

The report also notes that disclosure of the information came from somebody employed by the organization they wanted investigated, which would be the ministry.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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