Montreal's ombudsman is not in favour of setting up a snitch line that would allow municipal employees to anonymously report any unethical activity carried out by their colleagues.

Ombudsman Johanne Savard made the comments at a news conference Wednesday, where she presented her annual report.

"The reservations I have are strong," said Savard. "It cannot be a secret line. You cannot denunciate and not give your name."

"You also have to make sure that whoever has been accused, you don't discredit their reputation," she added.

Mayor G�rald Tremblay proposed setting up the hotline after his administration faced strong criticism in the wake of revelations that Frank Zampino, former chairperson of the executive committee, had vacationed on the luxury yacht of a businessman who was trying to secure a multi-million dollar water meter contract with the city.

Savard said she was concerned that such a whistleblower line would be lead to poisoned relations amongst employees because it would create suspicion between them.

"You may end up having a very negative impact on the work environment, overall," said Savard.

She added that the city's auditor general is already able to handle most matters of fraud and conflict-of-interest.

"What I would recommend we do is look at what systems we have now. Can we make them even more efficient?"

Complaints up by 33 per cent

The ombudsman's annual report shows that citizens lodged more than 1,753 complaints with the ombudsman's office in 2008, an increase of 33 per cent from the previous year.

Savard said she believes the increase shows more people know about the office, rather than more problems in the city.

"We have not reached a level where I can come to the conclusion that we're facing major problems in the Ville de Montreal," she said.

The ombudsman's office was created in 2003. Since then, the number of complaints has jumped by 488 per cent.

Savard said she intends to make the office even more visible, and she wants to make sure citizens know they can turn to the Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities when they are dealing with a city-related issue.

A public consultation will be held on the content of the charter by early 2010, she added.