Hotlines for Heroes

Making a Fraud Hotline Accessible and Successful

By Janet M. McHard, CFE, CPA, CFFA, CFF;Beth A. Mohr, CFE, MPA

Why do employees often avoid using hotlines? Because they do not believe they are really anonymous, and their co-workers could label the employees "tattlers." Here are ways to debunk stereotypes and practical suggestions for constructing hotlines that work.

The names, places and facts of the opening case have been modified to protect the identity of the victim organization and the employee sentinels who made the anonymous reports.

JulyAug-hotlines-for-heroes.jpgA message from a municipality's new employee hotline — no name, no contact information provided:

"Could someone please help us out here? It's terrible out here. No one listens. The employees are going crazy. We can't do our jobs! Please help!"

Message next day, same voice, no name, no contact information provided:

"Please help us. I work in the utilities department. We have people out here who aren't showing up to their jobs. And they are in charge! Things are falling apart! Please help us!"
Same day, different calm voice this time, no name, no contact information provided:

"I'm glad there's a hotline. I was so glad to see the press conference and finally know that there was someone who would listen. I've sent you a form from your website; it has details. Please, please, please, send someone out to see what's going on out here. Our director and deputy director are not working when they are supposed to be here. I'm pretty sure our director hasn't worked a full day in months and is getting full pay. And our deputy director is directing payments to a vendor where his wife works. I don't know how he's paying for it or how it got approved. I'm afraid to leave my name. Thank you for having this hotline. This has been going on for a while and I didn't know who to tell."

The inspector general's brief investigation confirmed that the director had falsified time sheets to show he had worked full time when he had not. Analysis of the vendor invoices showed hallmarks of fictitious billing, and the invoices did not substantiate the work the vendor said it had performed. A pretext call to the vendor confirmed that the wife worked at the vendor business. None of the participants in this case had reported the clear conflict of interest. The organization disciplined the director and terminated the outside vendor contract. The husband opted to retire rather than face disciplinary action. The municipality did not prosecute him.



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