Niagara Region Chair Jim Bradley issued a statement late Tuesday night with regard to “an ongoing whistleblower investigation” that may be related to a controversial bio-solids contract.
The statement was issued unusually late Tuesday night, significantly beyond business hours, at 10:30 p.m.
In the statement, Bradley said: “In the interest of full transparency and openness, I can confirm that an independent third party has been obtained to conduct an investigation of matters brought to Regional Council’s attention under the whistleblower policy. Council has retrained Kroll Consulting Canada Co. to handle the independent investigation, and to date has spent $87,126 on this matter.
He said the spending does not include “the costs associated with the external engineering firm that has been contracted to support certain technical elements of the investigation.”
He does not disclose the issue that Niagara Regional Council is investigating under its whistleblower policy. How it could be that the investigation Bradley mentions relates to a number of whistleblower complaints involving the region’s troubled $14-million bio-solids contract in the summer. The bio-solids program oversees the management of organic materials removed during the treatment of drinking water.
Bradley further commented in the release: “The Niagara Region will abide by the provisions of its Whistleblower Policy and refrain from providing any specific details until the investigation has been completed. It is important that the specifics of this matter remain confidential to protect the integrity of the process.”
He also said the public should not expect to hear independently from members of council on the issue and that he expects they “will abide by both the Region’s Whistleblower Policy and their Code of Conduct going forward and refrain from providing any further public comment on this matter. It is the Niagara Region’s intent to continue to treat this matter as confidential and provide no further commentary.”
It could be that the investigation Bradley mentions relates to a number of whistleblower complaints involving the region’s troubled $14-million bio-solids contract in the summer. Concerns over the contract were submitted under Niagara Region’s first ever whistleblower policy in the summer.
The contract first drew attention in January, when Niagara Region staff recommended that Thomas Nutrients Solutions, the Region’s current provider, be awarded the $14 million contract on a sole sourced basis.
The Region’s whistleblower policy was first enacted in March. It protects employees that report wrongdoing from any retribution. It also defines how to correctly issue a whistleblower report.