Hotline calls surge with complaints of fraud, waste, abuse in state government

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A hotline set up to report fraud, waste and abuse in state government is ringing and ringing.

The anonymous and confidential hotline, which is run by the Virginia Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG), received 193 calls in the second quarter of the fiscal year.

By the third quarter, the number had jumped to 462 calls. That’s a nearly 140 percent increase in a matter of three months.

Kathleen Shaw with OSIG says it might not be what you think.

“We don’t think that there is fraud and corruption rife in our executive state agencies,” she said. “But I do think that it’s due to awareness of the hotline.”

Shaw says they’ve been working to get the word out about the hotline through an email campaign to state employees. And now, non-state employees can also make reports.

The most common accusations in the last quarter were wasting state funds, employee misconduct, leave abuse and improper hiring practices.

The number of substantiated claims leading to investigations also rose.

In the second quarter there were 118. In the third quarter it was 208.

One example came out of Norfolk State University.

“It was a professor who had a business set up by his wife and so he was purchasing supplies for the department through his wife’s business, which was a clear conflict of interest,” said Shaw.

The more leads OSIG gets, the more wrongs they can right. Shaw says their goal is to provide recommendations for improvement.

“It’s not about ‘I gotcha.’ It’s really to improve efficiency and effectiveness in our government,” said Shaw.

Though it’s too soon to know for sure, the upswing in reports could continue. Shaw says the reports for the start of the fourth quarter are already a little higher than normal as well.

About one-third of hotline investigations during the last quarter were started because someone filled out the new form on OSIG’s website.

Citizens can also file complaints by calling 800-723-1615, emailing covhotline@osig.virginia.gov or by faxing a tip to 804-371-0165.

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