Ontario Attorney-General Michael Bryant has blamed the alleged misappropriation of funds at the public guardian's office on a former rogue employee. But the office has been plagued with a litany of problems dating back to the late 1980s, including an earlier investigation into theft and mismanagement of clients' assets.
The problems, ranging from accounting errors that cost clients money to the disappearance of about $40,000 in gold and jewellery from a vault in the guardian's Toronto office in 1990, reflect a failure of successive governments to rein in the agency by imposing more checks and balances, critics said yesterday.
Mr. Bryant revealed this week that the Ontario Provincial Police have launched a criminal investigation into a former long-time employee of the guardian's office who allegedly stole a "significant" sum of money from vulnerable clients. The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee oversees the financial assets of 9,000 mentally incapable individuals who do not have a family member to look after their affairs.
Sadly, it is all too easy for people to take advantage of society's most vulnerable individuals, said David Simpson, acting director of the Psychiatric Patient Advocate's Office in Toronto. Last year, for example, an investigation by the Toronto police fraud squad found that more than $250,000 was allegedly stolen from several clients at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. A 64-year-old former employee of the centre is facing fraud and theft charges.