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,” Mueller said.
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.