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Corrupt leaders and the fuel fraud.

Last November the Auditor General, Denis Desautels, asked the RCMP to conduct a criminal investigation into widespread fuel fraud in the CE Off base fuel purchases were made at inflated prices and the driver would receive between $4 and $70 per vehicle fueled. Mr. Desautels was also critical of DND's lack of implementation of its ethics program and a severe reduction in auditors. That an investigation should take place is obvious. That justice should be served, again is obvious. Although finding out why soldiers committed fraud might not be so obvious.

Consider that each of these men and women (generally drivers are corporals and privates) has been screened at the recruiting centres. No system is perfect, so it would be reasonable to expect some to turn out with criminal tendencies, the exception rather than the rule. However, we are told that more than 200 men and women are involved. What has possessed these erstwhile, trustworthy soldiers to take kickbacks?

The issue of compensation and pay is one that has disaffected the Forces' members. For years it was known that the pay gap between the military and the civil service was growing, yet the senior leadership seemed unable to do anything about it. Finally, this past year the Forces received a pay raise. Yet, more than a year before this raise, the general officers and colonels received a pay raise (along with their civil servant equivalents) of, in some cases, as much as 18%. This, while some junior ranks are forced to go to food banks to feed their families.

There is distinct sense these days of the breaking of the "unwritten contract". That is the sense that I as a soldier put my life on the line, but if I am hurt or injured you will take care of me, that my welfare and that of my family is assured. Yet when it appears that the senior leadership gets a raise before the troops, it also appears that they care for themselves more. The old leadership adage of Mission, Men, Myself, does not seem to apply.

Leadership by example. Probably the most important leadership principle. LGen Roy is hurriedly released from the Forces after allegedly embezzling as much as $80 thousand. No trial, no punishment, just a retirement on full pension. To add insult to injury the general kept and continued to use his government phone card after he was released. He subsequently returned the card; again no action was taken. What kind of message does this send?

The Somalia Inquiry was neatly swept under the carpet when it began to appear that very senior officers and bureaucrats might be implicated. We all found out about what happened at the bottom, but not the top.

The smearing of present and former officers and non-commissioned members, from Major Armstrong in Somalia to Lt(N) Smith in Croatia, is a common tactic. Most alarming is the despicable way Warrant Officer Matt Stopford has been treated, to the point where he was told that his own soldiers had tried to poison him. An inquiry is now in place investigating the causes of the illnesses many soldiers have had since their return from duty in the former Yugoslavia. However, the concern is how much pushing it took before any one took action. To the soldier it looks more and more like, "I better look after myself because no one else will."

The saddest part of all this is the change in moral compass. All of the servicemen who may be involved knew it was wrong, yet did it anyway. If this knowledge of kickbacks was shared between people, a secret group is now formed that will, by definition, be in competition with the legitimate chain of command. This could severely affect operational effectiveness. This issue must be dealt with to ensure the effectiveness the CE Although, we should not let any perpetrators go completely free, we should deal with the underlying reasons.

The idea of the ethics program being able to stamp out fraud is close to laughable. "Serve Canada before self" is a noble concept, but it must be demonstrated by the leadership each and every day and reflected in each and every decision made. Imagine the effect on CF members if the CDS had stood up and said neither he nor any other officer would accept a raise until the rank and file were taken care of. It would have said "I stand with you all; we are comrades." It would as well have been a strong statement to the government and to the people of Canada.

The men and women of the CF deserve the support they need to live a reasonable life, to be taken care of when they are wounded. Most of all, they need strong and inspired leadership to guide them through difficult times, to be the example.

Let's deal with the errant soldiers, sailors, and air personnel through the military justice system, but let us keep LGen Roy in mind when meting out punishment.
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Author:Michitsch, Howar
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jan 1, 2000
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