New fraud hotline helps Wisconsinites report government waste
Wisconsinites who know about a case of possible misuse of state property or resources now have a way to report it.
Earlier this month, the state's fraud waste and abuse hotline was created so that citizens can call a toll-free line to report abuse.
"I thought it was important for state employees and citizens to have an anonymous way to report fraud or mismanagement in state government or in agencies that receive state funds," said Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, author of the bill.
According to Lassa, Wisconsin is one of 25 states which have a fraud hotline.
The phone number for the hotline is 1-877-FRAUD-17 or 1-877-372-8317.
The program is managed by the Legislative Audit Bureau, and staff members will be available to take calls during normal working hours. After-hours callers can leave a voice mail.
"The program went live April 4 and we are really just getting started," said Jan Mueller, the state auditor and LAB director.
She added that they've received around 20 calls so far and she plans on keeping the public and the legislature informed about the general nature of the calls.
LAB staff members will follow up on the tips and may also refer tips to other state agencies.
"Once the call is received, we will make a determination whether we should investigate it or refer it to another agency," Mueller said.
She said that they expect to also receive information about local governments.
"We will pass that information along to the appropriate local government authority," Mueller said.
She added that callers should provide as much detailed information as possible and that confidentiality will be protected.
"By law we are required to keep all information confidential," Mueller said.
Mueller noted that in addition to the telephone hotline Wisconsinites can go to the LAB fraud hotline Web page (www.legis.wisconsin.gov/lab/fraudhotline.htm) and print out a form to mail it.
In the future, Mueller hopes to make the form interactive.
"We will make enhancements as we go and see what call volume is like," Mueller said.
Lassa said that she originally introduced the measure in 2000, but it wasn't passed until this last session.
"I don't know why it took so long to pass. I thought it was a fairly common-sense proposal," she said.
Lassa added that there were concerns about cost and whether the LAB had enough staff to manage the program.
"We were able to take care of the staffing concerns and the cost is minimal because it is uses an existing phone line," she said.
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