Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Metro invites anonymous tips on fraud

Efficiency suggestions also wanted By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • July 8, 2008 Metro Nashville wants your help exposing its ugliest warts. The city recently set up an Internet- and phone-based system to solicit anonymous tips about government fraud, waste and abuse from Metro employees and citizens. The system, called SilentWhistle, also accepts suggestions to make the government more efficient. Metro Auditor Mark Swann said his office decided to launch the program because of general concerns about fraud and waste — Metro is a large organization, and complaints may not always work their way up the ladder — but not because of any specific tips or suspicions. "There's always a certain amount of fraud that goes on," Swann said Monday. He said the city has received more than 30 tips and suggestions since employees started getting an e-mail about the program with an endorsement by Mayor Karl Dean on Wednesday. The suggestions have covered employee benefits, places for ID card readers and other issues. As for the waste and fraud tips, Swann said nothing has made his hair stand up yet. "It's all allegations, so it's hard to say," he said. But that doesn't mean the program won't pay off over time. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reported in 2006, "Our data supports the use of confidential hotlines and other reporting mechanisms as a fraud detection tool.Occupational frauds are more likely to be detected by a tip than by other means such as internal audits, external audits or internal controls." Metro expects to pay $10,000 to $12,000 over the course of a year to Allegiance Inc., the Salt Lake City-based company that hosts SilentWhistle, Swann said. Metro will decide whether to renew the contract once it expires next spring. Clay Osborne, director of SilentWhistle, said Allegiance started the phone hotline in 1992; the Web-based reporting system got going in 2000. Osborne said the company has about 100 government clients, including the federal departments of homeland security and transportation, among 2,200 clients in "every industry you can imagine." To report a problem or make a suggestion, call 888-484-6976 or visit http://nashville.silentwhistle.com. The Web site says the reporting process takes five to 10 minutes.

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