New bill protects workers from reporting on fraud, abuse of government money

Tough times mean more temptation.
That’s an unfortunate truth borne out by a recent report that shows when the economy heads down, the rate
of white collar crime moves up.
Citing a study by the National White Collar Crime Center, Auditor of State Mary Taylor said such arrests
were up 53 percent during the 1990 savings and loan crisis and up by 26 percent following the dot-com
bust in 2000.
Taylor is working with State Sen. Mark Wagoner, R-Toledo, to draft a bill that would encourage the
reporting of any fraud and abuse involving government money.
"We want to say," Taylor said in a telephone interview Thursday, "that we know economic
times are difficult… it is never acceptable to misuse or steal taxpayers’ money."
Still, she said, "we do believe we’re seeing an increase, not only in allegations, but in those that
turn into investigations and convictions."
The legislation, Senate Bill 7, would:
¥ Require the auditor to maintain a system, including a telephone hotline, to enable citizens and public
employees "to report allegations of fraudulent activities."
¥ Require that all state and local employees receive education in the new system.
¥ Protect whistleblowers who report fraud, waste and abuse.
The bill has already passed the Senate unanimously, Taylor said.
The House equivalent House Bill 58, sponsored by Rep.Ross McGregor, R-Springfield, is now in committee.

The state, Taylor said, already has a hotline in place. The bill would require it along with an online
report mechanism and a postal address become permanent.
The education component would serve not only to make sure public employees know how to report fraud, but
also serve as "a deterrent" by letting employees know a system is in place to catch them if
they should commit fraud.
"It helps to reduce fraud," Wagoner said, "because people know if they’re going to engage
in nefarious activities someone is watching."
For those who do report fraud or fiscal abuse, Taylor said, "they will be protected… they don’t
have to fear retribution or loss of their job."
Those reports can be anonymous, she said. That doesn’t mean that a disgruntled employee could get someone
in trouble.
When a report comes in, Taylor said, the auditor’s office sends out field staff to ask further questions
and look into the matter.
Sometimes they will do interviews. Often, she said, "if the person is guilty they actually admit
it."
All reports are investigated by an special audit task force in the state auditor’s office.
The bill is especially timely with the infusion of federal stimulus money into state and local coffers,
Taylor added.
Wagoner said the bill was introduced first year, reintroducing it this session when it passed.
"It’s a good government bill," he said. "It has received broad bipartisan support…
nobody in government us advocating for fraud and abuse."
Still Rep. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) is concerned that partisan wrangling may delay the bill’s
progress through the House.
So far this session, he said, only one Republican-backed bill has passed out of committee in the
Democratically-controlled House.
"Addressing government fraud should not be a partisan issue," he said. Passage should happen
this session "but for now it’s a victim of partisan delay."
The bill would take effect 90 days after the governor signs it.