June 8th, 2014
Peculiar meetings are interesting meetings, and over the years your correspondent has attended a few of these. There was the infamous Colin Metcalfe meeting, whereat it was announced that Bombardier has never been subsidized by government. Entertaining and educational. On another occasion, your correspondent was invited to an island in the middle of the Biscanye Bay for a private meeting with a very wealthy man and his Spanish speaking entourage. It felt like an Indiana Jones movie. It wasn’t, mind you, it was all above board, but these people had a Hollywood feel to them. They all wore khakis, smoked cigars, they had the hats and sunglasses and the exotic cars -the full drug cartel motif. One feels conspicuous arriving in a bright blue rented Kia in this context. But for all of this, RestoreCSA meetings are by far the most dramatic.
“We want to talk to you about Cindy Mao.” This was new, RestoreCSA had never heard of her. The people requesting the meeting had given false names and the meeting was scheduled for late at night at a small restaurant at the edge of town. And it was on a secondary road with tall trees, big shadows and poor street lighting. And none of this is comforting when one considers the Canadian Standards Association’s (“CSA”) attitude to the rule of law and the fact that its leadership is facing Jeff Skilling-like prosecutions for their Enron-like conduct. One takes precautions.
As whistleblower meetings go, this one was quite productive, cloak and dagger notwithstanding. They furnished a wealth of information on Cindy Mao, the CSA’s Manager, Corporate Internal Audit Services. Apparently Cindy’s dirty. As in most internal audit groups, a big part of Cindy Mao’s job is corporate risk assessment. That is, she receipts information on misconduct somewhere in the firm, weighs the risk and impact of the data, and decides on corrective action. So goes the theory. But what do you suppose happens if the nature of the firm itself is illegitimate? What happens if corporate leadership actually wants the misconduct to continue?
One CSA employee reported to Ms Mao that management was “cutting corners” with safety certifications. Another employee reported the faked safety testing of consumer products, those reported by RestoreCSA last month. Still another furnished her with copies of CSA’s own Certificates of Compliance (“COC’s”), showing that management had “switched it up so it looked like it went through review […] then gave them to clients as blanks.” Cindy Mao, in other words, had been receiving reports of misconduct and was in possession of physical evidence of CSA’s wide scale document falsification practices.
Alright, so what did Ms Mao do with all this? Well, “what info do you have on him,” she asked, “we need to find out what [our] liabilities are.” And on came the evidence deluge. Ms Mao was soon swimming in documents, there was no shortage of evidence of misconduct, particularly by Moamar Mustafa, one of CSA’s more notorious engineers. She was warned of the scale of the problem and that “eventually Mustafa’s going to get caught.” What did she do with that?
“We have our eye on Mustafa.” Thats it, Cindy Mao was going to monitor the problem. She wasn’t going to fix the problem and she surely wasn’t going to stop the misconduct. No, she would monitor it.
Displeased with Mao’s do-nothing approach to misconduct, CSA employees started escalating things. After all, these were consumer products, “its people’s lives at risk here.” And that line, that warning about people’s lives being at risk, was sent directly to Ash Sahi, the CEO of CSA. So, no plausible deniability for Sahi.
Under pressure, Mao ordered Doug Geralde to massage the misconduct issue. His job of course, was to do absolutely nothing about the problem. “I think his job was just to hide stuff” said one whistleblower, “Geralde was a fixer.” In government, action of inaction is known as the Law of Inverse Relevance; that is, the less you intend to do about something, the more you have to keep talking about it. Mao’s folks are quite good at this.
Ultimately however, the various “misconducts” of the CSA are quite profitable for them. Its like an auto repair facility that charges for fixing brakes. If they started charging for fixing brakes without actually bothering to fix them, well, they’d make a lot more money that way. Its much more dangerous, someone’s sure to be injured as a result and eventually the company will get caught, but in the short term fudging the records is a lovely way to boost revenue. And CSA leadership wants lots of revenue, its how they pay for the golf courses.
In the end, for all the pushing by worried employees and all the evidence against culpable management, the CSA decided that “they wanted it ‘Mustafa’s way’.” It appears that for financial reasons the CSA’s leadership intended for the misconduct to continue. As one whistleblower lamented, the CSA’s “internal ethics policy only exists to enable them to say they’ve got an ethics policy, its never followed.” None of the products that were falsely certified as tested were ever brought back in for actual testing, they’re still in the market, still certified as safe. And as for accountability, nobody was disciplined, nobody’s head rolled over any of this. In fact, Mustafa was promoted in the wake of it.
“No-one’s accountable,” said one employee, “[an issue] bounces back and forth and no-one is found at fault and nothing changes.” But forcing change is clearly needed at the CSA. RestoreCSA is working on that.