The Ontario Provincial Police are conducting a criminal investigation into allegations that a government employee responsible for safeguarding the finances of mentally incapable people was actually lining her pockets with their money.
The “financial irregularities” were reportedly discovered in May after a long-time employee of the provincial Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee went on vacation and another employee stepped in and uncovered that a significant amount of money was missing.
An internal investigation started in May and the employee was suspended after a preliminary report and was fired two weeks ago. The fired employee was a client representative who had been with the agency since 1995. Some media reports say she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars over a number of years.
Attorney General Michael Bryant issued a press release last Wednesday stating that the unidentified employee has been fired, police are investigating, and former integrity commissioner Coulter Osborne will lead a response team to field calls, advise victims and their families, and make sure victims are compensated for losses.
“It is totally unacceptable; to think that anyone would take advantage of those who are incapable of protecting themselves,” said Bryant. “The clients of this office and the public at large deserve swift action to get to the bottom of these allegations and to rectify any wrongs immediately.”
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee is conducting an internal review of its processes and procedures for handling clients’ accounts.
And a team of auditors, with the assistance of Auditor General Jim Carter and an outside accounting firm, will also make recommendations about how to prevent theft in the future.
The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee, which serves thousands of clients and employs roughly 350 staff in six Ontario offices, is responsible for protecting the financial, legal, and personal interests of Canada’s most vulnerable people.
Its responsibilities include managing the finances of mentally incapable clients, making decisions about long-term care, and conducting investigations when it receives information that adults may be mentally incapable and at risk of being harmed.
Every year, the OPGT pays more than one million bills for services, such as rent, hydro, heat, and telephone, on behalf of clients.
The attorney general’s office will not release any further information about the case.