Thursday, July 21, 2011

OMAFRA botches investigation

Susan Whelan
The record of an appeals tribunal hearing of an appeal by Dr. Ken Allan of Perth underlines the wisdom of hiring expert investigators.

That's what the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has done for most cases, turning to the team at the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to handle investigations.

But in this case, when inspector Craig Richardson thought Allan was breaking the rules governing the sale of livestock medicines, he acted as his own investigator.

Lawyer Susan Whelan, who chaired the panel of the Ontario Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal, ruled that he didn't gather convincing evidence. For example, an orange box on the seat of Allan's pickup truck is not evidence that there were livestock medicines or vaccines in the box, nor was there any evidence that Allan had sold any to farmers at the Ottawa Livestock Exchange that day.

And when it came to discipline, the ministry didn't bother to send letters by registered mail, so it can't prove that they were delivered. Allan says he didn't get them.

There were a few other deficiencies pointed out by the tribunal, all adding up to the conclusion that if Richardson and OMAFRA thought they had identified cheating, they failed miserably in proving it.