The Canada Revenue Agency has fired nearly 120 employees for inappropriately claiming the Canada Emergency Response benefit (CERB) at the beginning of the pandemic. 

On Friday, the CRA put out a statement saying that after an internal investigation, 600 possible violations were flagged and 120 individuals were fired from the department. 

“Out of the approximately 600 cases, we can report that 120 individuals are no longer with the CRA as a result of this internal review,” wrote the CRA. 

“The investigations and disciplinary processes continue.”

The CRA also wrote that any employee who received CERB under false pretenses will have to pay the sum back.

Additionally, cases where an element of criminality is suspected will be forwarded to police for investigation. 

“When misconduct is identified, we ensure that the appropriate actions are taken to address it,” wrote the CRA.

Estimates by Canada’s auditor general show that nearly $4.6 billion in CERB payments went to people who were ineligible for the program. 

Of all CRA employees who received CERB, the CRA wrote that around 30 were actually eligible. 

“In this regard, roughly 30 employees that are part of this review have been found to be eligible so far,” said the CRA.

According to National Revenue Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, the CRA’s decision to reprimand employees who benefited from CERB shows that it has a “zero tolerance” approach to such matters. 

“The CRA’s investigation into the employees who received the Canada emergency response benefit is being taken very seriously and is still ongoing,” said Bibeau. 

“The disciplinary measures imposed show that for us it is zero tolerance.”

The CRA began its investigation in July and immediately fired 20 employees. 

“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,” said the CRA at the time.