(Quebec) The Public Curator does not sufficiently protect incapacitated persons under private tutorship against financial abuse and mismanagement, deplores the public ombudsman, who blames an overflow of bureaucracy, a lack of personnel and a computer system obsolete.
“The sooner we intervene, the more likely we are to stop the abuse. In several cases where the Curateur public has been slow to intervene, well, the tutor has gone bankrupt, the person represented has died,” lamented protector Marc-André Dowd at a press conference on Thursday.
He presented his report “Under guardianship, but still vulnerable”, which details his investigation into the Curateur public and its practices of monitoring private guardianships.
Mr. Dowd and his team conclude that the watchdog of society’s most vulnerable, in the “presence of financial abuse or mismanagement by certain guardians”, “sometimes takes too long to react, does not consistently take action necessary and does not always carry out sufficient follow-up”.
The Curator’s bureaucracy can be improved, but it is “obvious” that “too heavy workload”, “staff shortage” and “outdated computer system” are also responsible for these failures, he notes. -he.
He thus echoes investigations by La Presse, which revealed last year that the workload of the Curateur’s employees was “mind-numbing”, but that employees subjected private curators to administrative hassles.
“If we wait several months, let’s say, well, the guardian who is in bad faith or who is abusive, he can continue his abuse during that period, for one thing. And, on the other hand, it is also to demonstrate that it is more difficult to recover the money after, for example, a few years or several months. It’s difficult,” Mr. Dowd explained.
He gave several examples. In one case, a guardian lent $60,000 from an incapacitated person’s patrimony, and multiplied “questionable transactions”. “A total of 15 years passed before the Curateur public was appointed guardian,” reveals Mr. Dowd.
Another disturbing case: a person under guardianship received an inheritance of $200,000 in 2012. However, the Curator waited until January 2014, “a little more than six months after the receipt of the annual management account”, to make a request of “safety” of the property. “The person depicted and other family members had gone abroad for the winter, with the money of the person under protection.” In 2022, the Curator “was still evaluating its remedies with a view to recovering certain sums”. Total abuse is valued at $105,000.
Sometimes delays accumulate. In one case, a review of an annual management account took 268 days. In the other, the Curator took 14 months to issue a recommendation. And despite the fact that he detected a “possible financial abuse” in a file submitted in 2018, he had still not “ruled” during the investigation of the Protector. “The complexity of the file and numerous staff movements partly explain the non-compliance with deadlines,” the document reads.
For its part, the Curator stated in a press release that it shared the findings of the Québec Ombudsman, and that it had already implemented an action plan to remedy these shortcomings. “Certain measures have already been completed, including the addition of private representation staff, while others are being developed. For example, the creation of a web portal for exchanges to facilitate and modernize communications with legal representatives,” the organization explained.