The next corrupt politician or city employee hoping to go on a credit card spending spree or take kickbacks may be in for a surprise: Sacramento is set to have a toll-free, anonymous whistleblower hotline within the next two months.
The line would be staffed by a live person, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, and would cost about $200,000 to fund. The purpose of the hotline, according to the staff report, would be to serve as a deterrent and as an avenue for city employees and the public to report potential waste and abuse without retaliation.
City Auditor Jorge Oseguera presented a report on the whistleblower hotline program at Tuesday’s city council meeting, which essentially served as an update since the program’s establishment in March 2012.
Vice Mayor Angelique Ashby, who has called the hotline, "woefully inadequate", said she’s concerned that the city is funding a department – and essentially creating one – at a time when others are being cut. She said that if the staff isn’t there to investigate the claims, the hotline would not serve its purpose, and that the city should only move forward with it if staff can respond to complaints appropriately.
Eye on Sacramento President Craig Powell spoke in support of the hotline, saying it’s "the no brainer of no brainers" to fully fund it.
You can read the auditor’s full report below. A few highlights:
• A typical organization is estimated to lose 5 percent of its annual revenues to fraud, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) 2012 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse. If the City of Sacramento’s loss due to fraud were in line with ACFE estimates for a typical organization, the loss to the general and enterprise funds would equal about $30.3 million per year.
• The city had closed 10 of the 19 complaints received by October 2012, including abuse of position or authority, time of use, and wasteful practices.
• Due to the limited staff in the city auditor’s office, not all complaints can be investigated, so they are ranked by priority (high, medium and low).
• Along with the anonymous hotline, the city would have a case management system in place to track the complaints.
Sacramento County also has a fraud hotline at 916-874-7822.
Editor’s note: Would this be an appropriate time to mention that the press is also willing to take tips of this nature? Not to be self serving… but you can reach us at hub[at]sacramentopress.com. We’re not quite 24 hours, but we do our best. Speaking of which, we’re asking the city for more information on the 10 complaints of fraud that were closed, and will update with their response.
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