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Orange County

Flaws Found in Fraud Hotline

April 02, 2004|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

A hotline for reporting waste and misuse of government resources refers callers to obsolete phone numbers and has no protections for shielding callers from retaliation, the Orange County Grand Jury concluded Thursday in a report.

Changes to the Orange County Fraud Hotline could make it a valuable resource for employees to anonymously report misuse of county funds, the jury said. But there are several problems.

Among them: Procedures for handling calls exist only in draft form; most county employees are unaware of the hotline; most calls are redirected to other agencies; and there is no coordination among similar waste-and-abuse hotlines operated by the risk management office and the district attorney. Orange County's internal Web page also includes no information about the hotline, which is intended for use by employees and the public.

The hotline was established three months before the county declared bankruptcy in 1994. It was shut down temporarily after the bankruptcy and reactivated in May 1996.

The jury recommended coordinating county hotlines, developing a county policy to protect whistle-blowers, and improving publicity about its existence.

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