CRA Dismisses 120 Employees for Unjustified COVID-19 Benefit Claims

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In the aftermath of a comprehensive internal review, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has dismissed 120 employees for making unjustified claims for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) during the COVID-19 pandemic. This follows a previous announcement in June that 20 staff had been let go due to improper receipt of the funds and that some 600 additional cases were under investigation. Expanding on this, the agency announced on Friday that the current total of relieved individuals is 120.

The undertaking of these investigations and the subsequent disciplinary procedures is a work in progress. The CRA reiterated its commitment to maintaining the integrity of the country’s tax and benefit systems, emphasizing its status as a trusted and fair organization. The statement underscored that when misconduct is detected, it is addressed with appropriate measures.

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These dismissed employees, who claimed payments while being ineligible, are now obliged to return them. The CRA explained that while most reviews and consequential decisions are performed internally, certain cases featuring suspected criminality might necessitate law enforcement referral.

The CERB program permitted Canadians to claim up to $2,000 monthly if the government’s pandemic restrictions influenced their employment situation. An agency spokesperson clarified in June that the 600 suspicious cases represented only a small proportion of the CRA’s 60,000-strong nationwide workforce.

They added that some employees may have legitimately claimed the payments in the early outbreak days as many had temporary or student contracts. In a follow-up statement, the agency stated that despite their employment, individuals could potentially still qualify for the CERB. They estimated that about 30 employees under review had legitimately claimed the benefit.

The agency expressed once again its confidence in the integrity and honesty of its staff, emphasising that the actions of a few do not diminish the exemplary work of the vast majority of its 60,000 employees.

The National Revenue Minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau’s office, corroborated that the CRA’s ongoing investigation is treated with high regard. The Minister cited the Canadians’ trust in the CRA as a significant element of the national tax system, built predominantly on the ethical conduct and integrity of the agency’s employees.

Finally, Bibeau reaffirmed the agency’s zero-tolerance policy regarding such cases, cautioning that it should not challenge the credibility of every employee in the agency who works dedicatedly in serving the public.

According to the report from Canada’s auditor general last December, the federal government has distributed approximately $4.6 billion in COVID-19 aid overpayments to ineligible individuals.