12/06/2012 03:30 EST | Updated 02/05/2013 05:12 EST

B.C. auditor general calls for whistleblower protection for workers

VICTORIA - Auditor General John Doyle says whistleblowers in British Columbia shouldn't have to put their jobs on the line to protect the public.

Doyle said in a report released Thursday that he's concerned about B.C.'s lack of protection for whistleblowers, especially since two major investigations conducted by his office this year relied heavily on information provided by whistleblowers.

"It seems to me, based on my recent experience with this, that whistleblowers do need protection and legislation seems to be the best way to provide that protection," he said in an interview.

"Whistleblowers need an element of protection in regard to the fact that they are coming forward with this information, and at the moment there is very, very limited (protection) that's afforded," Doyle said. "There have been some draft legislation put forward to the legislative assembly in the past, but none of it got through at this stage."

Doyle's report stated he can offer whistleblowers anonymity if they come forward to his office, but that same protection doesn't extend to their jobs.

"We point out that while our audit process offers whistleblowers anonymity, it does not prevent them facing potential reprisals should those individuals be identified inside their organization," the report stated. "We see the need to protect whistleblowers, and the lack of protection currently provided concerns us."

Doyle's report included summary reports of audits of the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and BC Transit future-ridership issues. His report also stated he was working on high-level summaries of two previous investigations that involved information provided by whistleblowers.

The report stated a whistleblower contacted Doyle's office last March about alleged inappropriate activities within the Pharmaceutical Services Division of the Ministry of Health.

In September, Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid announced an ongoing investigation into alleged abuse of the drug research grant process and the firing of seven government employees.

Two of those seven fired workers are now suing the government for defamation.

Doyle's report states a second investigation is currently underway after whistleblowers approached his office last July with concerns about follow-up issues connected to an audit earlier this year.

Doyle's report only identifies the follow-up investigation as "Organization A."

He wouldn't identify the organization.

Among Doyle's reports this year was a scathing review of the finances at the legislative assembly.

Doyle's audit of the management of the legislature revealed a mess in the legislature's books that made it impossible to conclude if money was being spent or misspent.

Doyle's report found that MLA credit card bills were being paid without receipts and the legislative assembly hasn't produced financial statements despite a 2007 recommendation from the previous auditor general.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment on Doyle's most recent report.

In 2007, the Opposition New Democrats introduced whistleblower protection legislation, but it did not pass.

The proposed legislation included provisions to protect whistleblowers from reprisals by their employer.

Doyle also announced Thursday that he was deferring until Jan. 24 the release of his audit of the province's justice information system, known as JUSTIN.

"The purpose of this delay is to allow the Ministry of Justice additional time to respond to recommendations contained within the report," said Doyle in a statement. "The Ministry of Justice has accepted all of the auditor's findings and recommendations regarding JUSTIN and has provided assurances that they are being implemented."

JUSTIN is designed to serve as a one-stop justice database that comprises of criminal cases, including police, Crown and court reports.