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The Canada Revenue Agency headquarters in Ottawa, on May 10, 2021.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Canada Revenue Agency announced late Friday evening that about 600 of its employees are facing an investigation, and 20 are no longer with the organization, as part of a continuing review of cases in which employees may have inappropriately received CERB payments during the pandemic.

The CRA was one of the main agencies responsible for administering the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which paid $500 per week and was the primary emergency benefit program offered to individuals who could not work for reasons related to COVID-19.

The CRA had previously announced that it was reviewing the issue.

“In an effort to ensure transparency, we would like to proactively confirm that as of June 30, 2023, there are 20 employees no longer with the CRA as a result of these reviews. It is important to note that this number is likely to increase as the reviews are completed,” the CRA said Friday.

“As the CRA is responsible for administering the Income Tax Act and many COVID-19 benefits, the highest standard of employee conduct must be upheld. The CRA understands the importance of transparency and integrity. The CRA also ensures that both Canadians and its employees are aware that the CRA takes any form of wrongdoing very seriously.”

The agency said a broad internal review process is under way to identify any CRA employees who inappropriately received CERB payments while employed with the CRA.

“We are currently investigating a very limited number of our employees, representing approximately 600 employees, or less than one per cent of the CRA’s total work force. Being a current employee of the CRA does not necessarily mean an individual was ineligible for the CERB.

“An internal review process to investigate each case is warranted as the CRA employs individuals with a variety of employment profiles such as temporary and student contracts; and, as such, individuals may have been eligible to receive the CERB at the time it was available,” the agency said.

In situations where misconduct is confirmed, the agency said disciplinary actions will be relative to the seriousness of the case and each review is handled on a case-by-case basis. The agency said any mitigating and aggravating factors will be considered.

“We would like to emphasize that this situation involving such a limited number of our employees in no way undermines the honesty and integrity of the more than 60,000 agency employees who work every day in an exemplary manner to serve Canadians,” the CRA said.

In February, the agency provided a written answer to an MP that said 10 of its employees were subject to an internal investigation related to incorrectly claiming COVID benefits.

At that time, the CRA declined to provide additional information when asked by The Globe and Mail.

“While some of these cases at the Canada Revenue Agency have led to a termination of employment, being more specific could lead to a breach of the Privacy Act,” the agency said then in an e-mail.

Employment and Social Development, the other department responsible for delivering pandemic benefits, had provided more specific figures in February.

Assistant deputy minister Mary Crescenzi told the House of Commons public accounts committee that the department has terminated 49 employees “in regard to misrepresentation of their situation when they were applying for CERB.”

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