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Allegations of booze and bribery unearthed in ICBC investigation
A series of firings that ICBC wrote off years ago as a problem with estimators failing to do their due diligence was actually a scandal that involved gifts from body shops to ICBC staff and allegations of bribery, CTV News has learned.
And the minister in charge of ICBC says he wants to know more about why the serious allegations weren’t made public sooner.
“I’ve asked for a full briefing about what happened,” Attorney General David Eby told CTV News Vancouver. “We’ll be reviewing the decisions that were made in that time period when the previous government was in charge.
“My concern is that people have confidence in ICBC,” he said.
The first person to be fired in 2012 was from the Richmond Claims Centre on Elmbridge Way. Five more people were fired later that year from the same facility.
At the time, ICBC said it was a problem with claims being improperly processed. It was a violation of ICBC policy for employees to approve estimates over the phone, rather than in person, the agency said at the time.
But behind the scenes, investigators probed what they believed was too close a relationship between the estimators checking the body shops' bills and the body shops that were getting ICBC’s money.
After questions from CTV News Vancouver, ICBC confirmed some of the employees accepted gifts from body shops including lunches, booze and gift cards. It said some employees went on two trips with body shop staff.
The estimators funnelled work to certain shops, and didn’t bother to check some of their claims in person, the company has alleged.
“These actions were clear violations of our Code of Ethics, which ICBC employees and contractors are required to annually review and acknowledge. As a result, ICBC took immediate action in response to this incident,” the public auto insurer said in a statement.
In one case, ICBC found allegations of direct cash payments to an employee.
“We’re aware of allegations of direct cash payments, but we couldn’t verify that in our investigation,” an ICBC spokesperson told CTV News in an email.
A short time later, another ICBC employee was terminated for “violation of company policies and procedures” in another related firing, the agency said in a statement.
ICBC refused interview requests for this story.
One auto body shop in Richmond lost its accreditation following the investigation, the corporation has said.
Dermod Travis of watchdog group IntegrityBC said ICBC should have been more up front about what was really going on in its claims centre because that could scare other employees.
“I think the corporation should have named and shamed. It sends a message to body shop owners and sends a message to other estimators,” Travis said.
“When you don’t have transparency it looks like you’re trying to sweep it under the carpet,” he said.
The president of the union that represents ICBC employees said he couldn’t talk about the firings for confidentiality reasons.
“They are entitled to confidentiality in that. We expect all of our members to behave ethically,” said David Black of MoveUp.
“Certainly, we are very proud of almost all of our members who provide professional service. They are very concerned about stewardship of the motoring public’s resources. If there are members who are not doing that it’s a great disappointment."
Eby said fraud is a constant concern, and he hopes that ICBC is being vigilant. He encouraged customers to call the tip line, and encouraged employees to follow the code of ethics.
He said an increased number of estimators going to body shops to visually check the nature of the repairs required would also help deter fraud.
The company said in a statement it’s up to the customer, not ICBC, where they can take their car for repairs. Approximately 45 estimators rotate between Express Repair facilities to review estimates, ICBC said.