Ombudsman slams Toronto Water

July 6, 2010

Toronto Water has behaved unfairly and unreasonably towards a North York resident who has suffered through years of sewer back-ups that have flooded her basement, created unhealthy mould, and filled her home with the stench of raw sewage. City employees have failed to do their jobs and management has failed to oversee them, resulting in unacceptable delays in solving the problem. Combined with a serious lack of communication with the unhappy customer, this “represents a fundamental failure of good administration on the part of the Toronto Public Service.”

These are the findings of Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean, put forward in a damning report delivered to City Council last week. Ms Crean wrote: “My investigation showed inertia, incompetence and a complete failure on the part of many public servants to take responsibility for their work.” In her report, she identified problems inherent in many bureaucracies. She found an inability to deal with an “atypical” project. She also found “bureaucratic silos” within and between different divisions. Compartmentalization impeded communication and collaboration between divisions, led to inefficiencies, and “created an attitude and mindset of ‘not my job.'”

In her recommendations, Ms Crean stressed the need for greater responsibility and accountability in Toronto Water. All employees, she recommended, should “be held accountable for all aspects of their duties and performance managed accordingly.”

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