Damning report finds B.C. Premier’s staff deleting emails

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B.C.’s Privacy Watchdog wants the RCMP to investigate a former government staffer, after he admitted to triple deleting government emails.

BC’s Privacy Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, says former Ministry of Transportation staffer George Gretes lied under oath, later admitting he did delete government emails on occasion.

The issue was raised by former employee Tim Duncan, who says Gretes grabbed his keyboard and deleted emails related to the highway of tears, that were requested under Freedom of Information.

Gretes has since resigned. Denham says it’s one of numerous failures in which employees broke the law by deleting relevant government emails.

She’s even found breaches within the Office of the Premier.

The privacy watchdog is recommending all employees stop permanently deleting emails and undergo mandatory training.

NDP Reacts

NDP leader John Horgan is in full attack mode over the scandal. During question period today he read a segment from the Privacy Commissioner report.

“…..’in the course of this investigation, we uncovered negligent searches for records, a failure to keep adequate email records, a failure to document searches and the wilful destruction of records, responses to an access request. Taken together, these practices threaten the integrity of access to information in British Columbia.’   – I don’t think you can be more scathing than that, Honourable Speaker.”

 Government taking action, says Virk

The Minister of Technology says the recommendations from Denham’s report are already being acted on.

Amrik Virk says all government employees have the responsibility to ensure they’re properly responding to freedom of information requests.

He says the commissioner has made a number of findings and recommendations, and the government is already acting on them,

“At the request of Premier Christy Clark I have asked David Loukidelis the former information and privacy commissioner of .B.C to advise government on how to address the recommendations.”

Virk says Loukidelis will also provide direction on how the government can “enhance” freedom of information training.

CKNW obtains confidential speaking notes

In confidential speaking notes obtained by CKNW, provincial government ministers have been told to tap dance around questions pertaining to the RCMP investigation.

In the notes, ministers are given the proper answers if reporters push on whether or not taxpayers are paying the legal bill for Gretes. The closest answer they seem to be authorized to give is to say there are provisions for repayment should he be found guilty.

As for Transportation Minister Todd Stone, his office has been directed to deliver a terse statement saying he is disappointed, but no further comment.

Premier’s office

The Premier’s office is surrendering its FOI response responsibilities and handing them over to the deputy minister.

Former Information and Privacy Commissioner David Loukadelis has also been called in to advise government on getting its FOI act together.

Read the full report here.

Originally published on CKNW.com

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