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New Times / News

The following article was posted on October 30th, 2013, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 28, Issue 14

The SLO County auditor will set up a whistleblower hotline

BY MATT FOUNTAIN

A San Luis Obispo government version of Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning wouldn’t find salvation in a new county hotline, but local efforts to limit financial misappropriation and waste will now include an anonymous venue for whistleblowers to expose misdoings or shortcomings.

On Nov. 15, the head of the county’s newly consolidated Office of Auditor-Controller-Treasurer-Tax Collector, Jim Erb, is set to unveil to the board of supervisors a Whistleblower’s Hotline for his department. He hopes the new tool will encourage anybody in his office with information of fraud to feel safe enough to come forward.

Though the office currently has internal controls in place—such as unannounced cash counts, monthly reviews of policy, and recalculations of travel claims—more can be done to protect taxpayer funds, Erb told New Times.

The office will spend $6,000 a year on a third-party contractor for the new hotline. That contractor will accept and review tips, conduct phone interviews, and forward reports to office administration, who will then choose to follow up or not. A one-time expense of $2,000 will also be spent on supplies and outreach.

According to SLO County Principal Auditor-Analyst Kerry Bailey, the decision to implement the service wasn’t born out of any specific recent malfeasance. Instead, it’s one of many best practices suggested by the Association of Certified Fraud Planners, of which the office is a member.

Erb said that statewide estimates indicate roughly 40 percent of occupational fraud is discovered and reported by other employees. He’s not only looking to discover people skimming off the top, though—he wants to actually pinpoint where the procedure may be lacking or specific processes that may need to be tweaked to reduce the temptation.

The board of supervisors won’t vote on the item; the office will announce the hotline number at its unveiling.