Wisconsin residents are trying out a
new hotline to report alleged fraud, mismanagement and waste of their
tax money to a nonpartisan audit group.
Since the toll-free line launched
Friday, state auditor Janice Mueller said, the Legislative Audit
Bureau has already received complaints from its citizens.
The Legislative Audit Bureau now
supports a hotline, 1-877-FRAUD-17, which will take calls during
business hours and provide a message system around the clock.
The hotline, mandated by a new law
signed in March, keeps callers’ identities a secret.
Mueller said this is so “the general
public would feel freer, perhaps, in calling us to report possible
misuse of state funds.”
Callers can report anything from
inappropriate use of state resources to theft and embezzlement,
according to the LAB.
Mueller credited the hotline’s
creation to the legislators who pushed for it during the last session
at the Capitol, including Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point.
“Her testimony often said it was an
important step in making government more accountable to taxpayers,”
Scott Becher, spokesperson for Rep.
Steve Wieckert, R-Appleton, said the bill had bipartisan support in
Wisconsin, and a similar hotline exists in 22 other states.
“Keep in mind the state of Wisconsin
is basically about a $25 billion-plus organization,” Becher said.
“For any organization on this sort of a scale, there’s always
going to be a few bad apples.”
In Oregon, a similar hotline found
$233,000 in employee theft and $30,000 of improper use of grants in a
one-year period, Becher said. He also said over six years in Ohio, a
hotline led officials to bring $16.1 million back into the treasury
after 639 reports of fraud.
Mueller said to manage what could be a
high number of calls, the complaints would be prioritized and some
would be directed to other agencies to investigate and address.
“It’s not the only avenue, but it’s
another avenue to report concerns,” Mueller said. “We certainly
pledge to do our best in terms of administering the hotline in an
objective, fair and nonpartisan way.”
Mueller added although the new law
doesn’t require it, she intends to do at least annual reports of
what the hotline produces.