Sat. Dec 9th, 2023

OCPM: Beaulieu and Ollivier pass the buck

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The president of the OCPM, Isabelle Beaulieu, was the first to testify before the Commission on Finance and Administration of the City of Montreal.

  • Érika Bisaillon (View profile)Érika Bisaillon

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Long-established “ways of doing things” or exaggerated spending by a new administration? The testimonies of the president of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), Isabelle Beaulieu, and the former president of the organization Dominique Ollivier in the municipal commission, Friday, confronted two versions of the same management story which has been shaking up City Hall for two weeks.

It was a seemingly concerned Isabelle Beaulieu who was the first to testify before the Commission on Finance and Administration of the City of Montreal.

She took advantage of the invitation to empty her bag by describing a set of practices considered irregular within the OCPM: theft of time and poor management of hours worked, unhealthy work climate, rapid turnover of employees. x27;employees and lack of code of ethics, among others.

I made mistakes, I recognize it, I take responsibility for it, she said from the outset. It is my duty to take note of them and act. Our practices must be changed and governed by clear, written rules. I commit to doing so.

Concerning representation expenses for restaurants and travel, I relied on the ways of my predecessors. However, I have reduced the frequency and extent of trips, defended Isabelle Beaulieu, in office since February 24, 2022.

Uncovered this week by the new Secretary General, Guy Grenier, in office since January, a document found in the Office's archives, dating from 2017, indicates that the General Auditor asked the OCPM to modify its practices for travel and restaurants. The note had been rejected by management at the time, said Ms. Beaulieu. The municipal council maintained that it had not been made aware of the existence of this report.

Isabelle Beaulieu explained that she had requested to staff, upon arrival, if there were any written rules or policies regarding the management of the Office, but received no response on this subject. However, she assured that she had put in place numerous measures to put an end to questionable practices within the OCPM.

Yes, we had work meetings in restaurants, like my predecessors. We are putting an end to this practice.

A quote from Isabelle Beaulieu, president of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal

Isabelle Beaulieu testified to various harmful and questionable practices. I quickly noticed gaps in human resources management. There was significant latitude in the payroll system and little oversight from the previous administration, she said.

There was a very free interpretation of presence in the office, emphasized the president, who also mentioned management problems regarding declared hours and vacations.

Even worse, two employees with auxiliary status were receiving their 6% vacation amount each pay cycle, even though they took three to four weeks of paid vacation per year. The former secretary general listed these weeks as worked, she said. She assured that she put an end to these practices with the help of Secretary General Guy Grenier.

There was no code of ethics, everything was managed arbitrarily, she testified. I clarified office attendance rules, vacation policy, work rules; the construction site is vast, but it is in progress, she assured.

In January 2023, anonymous allegations concerning the work climate were led Isabelle Beaulieu to mandate an expert firm to conduct an independent investigation and meet the members of the team, she explained.

This report, published in March 2023, concludes that the new president was not the choice of the political party currently in power in the City and underlines the president's desire to ensure tighter management and more sustained accountability.

Former president of the Office Dominique Ollivier, supporter of Projet Montréal, left the organization to enter municipal politics with Mayor Plante’s team. She became president of the executive committee following her election. She also resigned from this position on Monday, following revelations about her questionable expenses.

Isabelle Beaulieu also took the opportunity to denounce a political context where employees wanted to harm him.

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Isabelle Beaulieu affirmed that there were “ways of doing things” before her arrival at the OCPM.< /p>

When she arrived at work, she confirmed that she had purchased an iPad and Apple earphones for online dating. These are work tools for virtual meetings in a noisy office context. The price paid for this equipment was too high, I agree.

In 2022, the OCPM replaced the tables and chairs to accommodate people in the large rooms on the 14th floor of 1550 Metcalfe Street.

The chairs and tables were dilapidated; they needed to be replaced, they were more than 20 years old, she said. She added that the chairs and tables in question were also used by all other City services which also use the OCPM premises, such as Concertation Montréal, the Office of the Auditor General, the Youth Council, the Commission de the public service, the Montreal Intercultural Council and several others.

We purchased three interactive whiteboards, she said, adding that they were not televisions and that none were in her office.

Ms. Beaulieu certified that she has restricted, since taking office, the frequency and extent of international travel. As I announced, we are now taking a break to review these practices.

I inherited an organization that needs to be modernized and a precarious situation the extent of which I did not know. There were many gaps, there are still some.

A quote from Isabelle Beaulieu, president of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal

Last year, I decided to reduce the amounts devoted to international relations. We now have to revise everything, including the representation. […] The work has begun, she certified before the Commission.

We will collaborate transparently with the Auditor General in carrying out her mandate and will follow her recommendations so that things change. Isabelle Beaulieu assured that she met the Auditor General for this purpose on Wednesday.

For her part, Dominique Ollivier, who was president of the Office from 2014 to 2021, wanted to set the record straight and returned the ball to Isabelle Beaulieu. I want to make this clear: 77 outings at Chez Alexandre in one year, headphones for $900, hockey tickets for $500, that never happened under my presidency and it's the fact of administration that succeeded me.

I have always had too much respect for public funds to authorize this kind of spending. For me, expenses and representation fees must be made within the normative framework that governs the Office.

A quote from Dominique Ollivier, former president of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Before the pandemic, four types of meetings could qualify as representation expenses within the strong>OCPM,according to Ms. Ollivier:

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Dominique Ollivier resigned from her position as president of the executive committee in the wake of the controversy surrounding the management of the OCPM. (Archive photo)

During my seven years as president, the costs related to this type of expense were less than $20,000. I understand the citizens who find the amount to be large, but it is an overall figure which covers a period of seven years.

A quote from Dominique Ollivier, former president of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal

She added that this type of meeting should not be a recurring practice. They have never been, and should never be in the future, a daily practice.

Dominique Ollivier explained that the Charter of the City of Montreal recognized the right of commissioners to be reimbursed for their expenses, including meal costs. On the other hand, the council resolution that passed unanimously in 2014 provided that the presidency was entitled to $4,000 in entertainment expenses, she said.

This same Charter provides that the presidency surrounds itself with the necessary resources to carry out the mandates entrusted to it. There are no other rules that exist, as we speak, to govern hiring processes.

Ms. Ollivier also affirmed that there were three-step control mechanisms: either an analysis of the budget proposal by the Committee on Finance and Administration; the tabling of the annual report, during which elected officials and the public can ask questions; as well as the verification of the financial statements (by the general auditor until 2018, then by an independent firm mandated by the City until 2021).

In light of what has been said in recent weeks, it is clear that we must review the control mechanisms to ensure that they function correctly and that they make it possible to avoid excesses and abuses, as well as ensure public confidence in our institutions.

A quote from Dominique Ollivier, former president of the Public Consultation Office of Montreal

The former president believes that the crisis that the OCPM is currently experiencing is a unique opportunity to review both frameworks and governance. We must change our ways of doing things to be in tune with the world.

Testimonies before the Commission on Finance and Administration of the City of Montreal were only the first milestone in a reflection on the body, already well underway in the public space.

Monday , the municipal council will examine the expenses of the OCPM. It is only at this moment that the future of the current management of the OCPM will be debated and decided. The city's Office of the Auditor General will also investigate the matter in the coming months.

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