A quest for the truth: Probe before you investigate – Canadian Government Executive

NEWS

SEARCH

Business
May 7, 2012

A quest for the truth: Probe before you investigate

The spectre of wrongdoing within a department can send chills down the corporate spines of an organization. Many sleepless nights have plagued senior managers who find themselves in the unenviable position of being responsible for dealing with allegations of wrongdoing.

The decision to launch an investigation and ensuring that the investigation is conducted thoroughly and competently are not to be taken lightly. The risks of failing can have consequences for all parties involved. The legal, human resource and labour issues that will most certainly stem from errors committed at any stage of the process can quickly become a corporate nightmare for a department. This being said, the risks of allowing the wrongdoings to persist are far greater.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stated: “It takes less time to do a thing right than it takes to explain why you did it wrong.” In making the right choices prior to launching an investigation in your department you mitigate the risks of finding yourself and your organization in a position of having to explain your own “wrongdoings.” The decisions you make will speak volumes about your leadership as well as about the values of your department.

An investigation is a “quest for the truth” that is undertaken following certain principles and rules that the law, the courts and organizational policies have created to guide those on the quest. There are different reasons why an investigation would be launched within an organization. They range from being a legislative requirement (e.g., the federal Public Servant Disclosure Protection Act) to a managerial decision to proceed with a review to determine the origin of a loss of productivity in a unit.

Most investigations, however, are initiated following allegations of “wrongdoing,” a term used to describe a wide range of acts or behaviours that are contrary to the values, laws, regulations and/or policies of an organization.

Understand the allegations

Prior to launching a full investigation, executives need to take a hard look at the allegations that are being brought to their attention. Lengthy and expensive investigations are often launched based on very little information and too much emotion. A preliminary probe should be considered to determine if a full investigation is warranted. A well conducted probe can save time, money, embarrassment as well as assist in determining the scope of the investigation.

However, it is extremely important that someone with the proper experience and expertise conducts the probe since the line between a probe and a full investigation must be fully understood. If one crosses the line, the rules of engagement change considerably as do the legal obligations of the department.

Consult the experts

This is where it is important to obtain expert advice. Though you may find yourself responsible for how the situation is handled, you are not alone in dealing with it. Legal services, human resources and labour relations units are important resources that should not be overlooked. Issues of confidentiality, natural justice, procedural fairness, privacy and collective agreements should be discussed and fully understood. Depending on the type of wrongdoing and extent of the investigation, you may want to consider consulting with your media relations unit.

Whether it is within your own organization’s investigation unit or through an outside consultant, the advice you receive should be from someone with many years of experience in the field and, preferably, with experience investigating in the public sector environment. An overzealous or incompetent investigator can be a liability. The cloud that hangs over an organization that conducts and acts on the results of a badly conducted investigation takes a long time to dissipate. Credibility and trust are difficult to earn and extremely easy to lose, especially in our media hungry and litigious society. Let’s not forget that, as the senior manager, you are not only responsible to act on the results of the investigation but also for the conduct of the investigation itself.

Define the scope

Once you are satisfied that an investigation is warranted and that you have the right individuals in place to conduct your investigation, it is important that you and your investigators are clear on the scope of the investigation. Ask yourself: what information will I need to make the right decision in this matter? At times it can be tempting to widen the scope at the beginning or during the investigation (sometimes called “scope creep”) but you may be doing yourself and your organization a disservice. A clear definition of the parameters will save time, energy, money and unnecessary stress for everyone involved.

Get out of the way

The next step can be the most difficult for many executives: let the investigation take its natural course. If you have confidence in your choice of investigators it should be easier for you. Everybody likes to play detective, but remember that the investigation must not only be unbiased, it must also be perceived as being unbiased. If you are seen as directing the investigation, the conclusion as well as the actions you take as the decision maker can be seriously put in question.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t be briefed during the investigation; on the contrary, it is important that you are aware of progress as well as of any issues that may need your attention. Regular briefings are also an excellent occasion for you to demonstrate your support for the investigation.

Get the story behind the story

The final phase of the investigation is the report. A good report should be clear, concise and based on evidence that is supported. The analysis portion of the report should be sound, founded on supported evidence and devoid of any gratuitous opinions or “gut feelings.” The findings of the investigation should be obvious to the reader prior to its conclusion.

Once you have read the report, insist on a personal briefing by the individuals who conducted the investigation. Remember, not everything is in the written report. It would be too long a document. You need the chance to ask any questions you may have about the report, discuss the recommendations and allow the investigators to share their insights on the matter. This information will be invaluable to you when you are preparing your response to the allegations.

The “quest for the truth” that you initiate should ensure that you are provided with the information you require to come to a judicious decision. The decisions that you take following your investigation will not only define you as a leader, but will also reveal you as a person. Hence, the importance of making the right choices prior to launching an investigation. They will determine the success of your quest and, maybe even, the quality of your sleep.

 

Wayne Watson, CFE, CFI, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer and federal public servant, is president of W2 Investigation Consulting (W2inv.consulting@rogers.com or www.w2investigationconsulting.ca).

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Business
 
Canadian Government Executive Media (CGE) and CATAAlliance , Canada’s one voice for...
 
Water is essential to sustain all forms of life and more...
 
Security professionals have an obligation to communicate risks and recommendations to...
 
During the past decade, the international university-level student population in Canada...
 
Professionals, managers, and executives in the cost estimation industry can gain...
 
Canadian Government Executive kicked off its CGE Leadership Series for 2017...
 
A new study from the Conference Board of Canada gives our...
 
As the 5th largest agricultural exporter on the planet, Canada plays...
 
In this episode, hear more about how Canada is a prime...
 
In the recent June issue, we published a captivating piece by...
 
The October issue of Canadian Government Executive on Focusing on Customer...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Executive compensation is considered to be a central component of corporate...
 
Open source was established around the ethos of sharing and collaboration....
 
In December last year, a privately owned aerial drone crashed into...
 
By Gregory Richards A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute suggests...
 
Last week the Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, reported that...
 
Written by Donald Farmer Too often, we base Business Intelligence today...
 
Written By Chris Brown To deliver results that senior executives value,...
 
Written By Jason McNaught Contrary to what you may have heard,...
 
Written by  Gail Vallance Barrington Anyone who has commissioned a program...
 
“Public institutions are the cornerstone of our democratic system” is the...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
A neuromarketing study examines exactly how much life direct mail continues...
 
As one of the U.S. Defense Department’s largest acquisition organizations, Program...
 
Many people say that managing projects is all about managing people...
 
Some of us can only dream of being 20 years old...
 
“With SMARTnership, we have to look into communication, being trustworthy, convincing...
 
Wreaths are placed at the naming ceremony for the new Canadian...
 
Barry Shepherd, the principal surveyor and client support manager for Central...
 
In 2012, the province of Prince Edward Island held a business...
 
The challenges city leaders now face require creativity and innovation. Many...
 
Depending on how you count, 10-20 percent of all Canadian public...
 
In a 2011 white paper published by the Internal Federation of...
 
For the last few years, governments around the world have been...
 
Compensation is often raised as a key tool that can either...
 
The Canadian mining industry is responsible for over 4.5 percent of...
 
Governments throughout Canada are facing a number of challenges, from reducing...
 
Since its founding, Canada has looked either east to Europe or...
 
It is a good management practice to review programs and activities...
 
Few things catalyze infrastructure faster than a major international sporting event....
 
What can you say about the future of long range public...
 
In Canada, it seems like any discussion of copyright quickly turns...
 
We live in a time when physical and digital infrastructures built...
 
How are leaders responding to a competitive and economic environment unlike...
 
We live in times of significant demographic and technological transition across...
 
Public-private partnerships (P3s) have become increasingly important in Canada at both...
 
Les citoyens souhaitent expliquer aux politiciens et aux décideurs ce qu’ils...
 
The need for better accountability has led Treasury Board to enforce...
 
It begs the question: Are federal real property professionals ready to...
 
With an annual deficit of $36.2 billion, the federal government is...
 
It now appears that Canada will emerge earlier than expected from...
 
Strong portfolio management is increasingly important in today’s interconnected world....
 
Early in 2011, the National Quality Institute (NQI) board of governors...
 
The Public Service Modernization Act, which came into force in 2005,...
 
In the current economic climate, the finance function role in the...
 
We live in exciting times: an unprecedented level of innovation is...
 
Saskatchewan’s oil and gas sector is booming, and the amount of...
 
The Economic Action Plan showed how much can be achieved when...
 
Public Works and Government Services Canada has a new and innovative...
 
Citizens may not always look forward to applying and paying for...
 
Maintaining and investing in water and waste water treatment facilities, roads,...
 
Stakeholders and media are currently focusing substantial attention on executive compensation....
 
The spectre of wrongdoing within a department can send chills down...
 
Il n’y a pas si longtemps, les Beatles chantaient : «...
 
The Beatles once sang, “You say you want a revolution? Well,...
 
An idea – that’s where it all starts. Entrepreneurs travel a...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Quote of the week politicians provide the energy generated by ideology,...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
Canadian Government Executive Media (CGE) and CATAAlliance , Canada’s one voice for...

Member Login

Forgot Password?

Join Us

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.