Unlocking the e-gaming File

“Politicians can cover-up…..but in the end; the numbers don’t lie”

I received a response from FOIPP Coordinator Kathryn Dickson today regarding one of my eight recent Access to Information Requests….it is an incredibly important request, designed to finally answer several key questions regarding the destruction of e-gaming records. That’s the good news.

The bad news is it’s going to cost me roughly $3,500 to get this information.  But I’ve decided I’m going to give Ms. Dickson the go-ahead to proceed with this request first-thing Monday morning, trusting there will be enough people willing to support me and offer some financial help to cover the cost of this request.  These documents are too important to pass by – they represent the key to unlocking the entire file on the destruction of e-gaming records.

I’ll try to make this article short, but please read on to find out exactly what these documents will reveal and what questions the information they contain will answer. But first, take a moment and read exactly what documents I’ve asked the government to provide me with.

Access Letter on Cost of all Employee Removal Forms 001

As I noted in my initial Investigative Report on the destruction of e-gaming records:  on December 1, 2016, then Minister of Education Doug Currie, reported in the Legislative Assembly that there were 2481 GroupWise email accounts “disabled” since Robert Ghiz and he were elected in May, 2007.

He then proceeded to misinform and mislead the house, the media and the entire population of PEI by saying that the “normal” process that government followed with the email accounts of  employees leaving government is to have them “disabled” – after which the emails can be recovered for just one year, at which time those emails are permanently overwritten and can no longer be recovered.

Premier MacLauchlan said the same thing in both his Guardian and CBC 2016 year-end interviews just a few weeks later: arguing there was nothing out-of-the ordinary about how the email accounts of the three people identified by the Auditor General in her e-gaming report as having had their email accounts “closed” .

The opposition MLAs protested that the Auditor General not only used the word “closed”, but specifically said the email accounts of those three senior bureaucrats had been “deleted” – not simply “disabled” – but there was still a lot of confusion over what exactly happens to email accounts  and their contents in late 2016 – especially with Currie saying “disabled” accounts lead to “deleted” emails after a year – and nothing became really clear until Scott Cudmore {Director of Enterprise Architecture, Information Technology Shared Services} clarified the entire matter when he appeared before the Public Accounts committee on February 1, 2017.

Mr. Cudmore told committee members that there are roughly 14,000 GroupWise email accounts in the PEI government system – 10,000 “active” accounts; and 4,000 “disabled” accounts.  He went on to explain that “disabled” accounts aren’t DELETED after a year, but remain fully intact indefinitely, until such time as someone issues a directive to ITSS to “delete” the account by completing an Employee Removal Form.   And here is where it gets really interesting.

Currie said there were nearly 2481 GroupWise email accounts “disabled” since Ghiz formed the government in May, 2007 and they started tracking them, but then he went on to explain why the emails in those accounts no longer exist using a fictitious story about how the normal procedure for all email accounts of employees leaving government is to have the contents “overwritten” after a year, at which time they would be deleted for good.  But that only happens with “deleted” accounts – in other words, when an email account is ordered “deleted,” the emails can still be recovered from back-up tapes for one year ….”disabled” accounts remain intact with all their emails until ordered deleted.

When I submitted this July 17, 2018 request for all ITSS Employee Removal Forms from the date Ghiz was first elected premier to the present, I didn’t know whether the number Doug Currie used on December 1, 2016 represented ALL employees who had left government, or just those employees who had their email accounts “disabled”.  I thought their might be another thousand or two thousand employees who had their accounts “deleted” as well.  Now I know that the number of “disabled” accounts he cited represented ALL employees, and it would appear there have been an additional  300-400 employees leaving government since MacLauchlan became premier in 2015.

When I get a copy of each of the 2800 one-page forms from ITSS, I’ll be able to calculate exactly how many were “disabled” and how many were “deleted”.

The story Currie and MacLauchlan told was essentially that all accounts are first disabled and then automatically “deleted” after one year. We know that’s not true, but it leaves us guessing how many of the 2800 were “disabled” and how many were actually “deleted”.

The story Cudmore told is that there are still 4000 email accounts with all their contents intact!   If there were only roughly 2800 employees who had their email accounts either disabled or deleted since May, 2007, and there’s still 4,000 “disabled” accounts on the system, that means that if every single account since May 2007 had only been disabled and not deleted, there would still be roughly 1,200 email accounts still intact that are older than May 28, 2007!

It’s logical to assume that if a “license” needs to be freed up for a new employee (Cudmore explained that each account requires a license, whether it’s “active” or “disabled” – and it’s only after it’s deleted and completely removed from the system that the license then becomes available for a new account, since there are exactly the same amount of licenses as accounts, e.g., 1400) then the OLDEST accounts would be the first to be “deleted”.

We know from the Auditor General that at least three (3) email accounts were “deleted” and removed from the system under Ghiz, but we don’t know how many others were deleted. ITSS staff know of course, but their only means of direct communication with the public asking questions is a form email that: (a) thanks you for your inquiry; (b) tells you if you want information you’ll have to file a FOIPP request and pay dearly for it; and (c) provides you links to the application page for FOIPP requests.

Based on the information Mr. Cudmore shared with Public Accounts, it’s entirely possible that not only were all the 2800 not “deleted”  – like Currie and Premier MacLauchlan led us all to believe – but that only a handful….a select few were singled out for deletion.

I suspect that nearly all of those 2800 accounts remain fully intact, but are simply no longer “active” – and that the orders that Robert Ghiz and Neil Stewart gave to delete the three accounts of Chris LeClair, Rory Beck and Melissa MacEachern destroying the contents were completely out-of-step with the normal process, showing a deliberate attempt to obliterate government records so they would never be available to the Auditor General or the members of the Public Accounts legislative committee which they would have suspected at the time would be looking into e-gaming at some point in the future, given all the lost money; conflicts of interests; non-compliance with treasury board guidelines; and flat-out illegal activity; as well as the media or anyone else seeking e-gaming documents through FOIPP requests.

I’m dedicating a significant amount of my time to working on this criminal proceeding with no remuneration, and I’m happy to do that; however, any assistance I can get to offset this significant personal cost will be greatly appreciated.

I will put a total amount for this out-of-pocket expense on my website when I make the payment and will then update it showing the amount remaining as contributions come in.  I’ll thank you for your support and generosity in advance.

You can either send me an email transfer to kja321@gmail.com or send a cheque to:

Kevin J. Arsenault – 32 Father Brady Lane – Ft. Augustus – C1B 0X8