HELENA, OCTOBER 9 – Nearly one in five employees of the State of Montana is aware of waste in the workplace, but the incidence of outright fraud is much smaller, according to a recent survey by Montana legislative staff.
According to a survey sent to 6,000 state workers by the Legislative Audit Division, 19 percent of the 1,600 who responded said they had first-hand knowledge of waste of state resources in the agencies they work for in the last two years.
Meanwhile, 5 percent of respondents said they were aware of fraud – a more deliberate and often prosecutable criminal activity – in their agencies during the previous two years.
The survey was the first of its kind across state government, and was meant to gauge employee perceptions about the amount of fraud, waste, and abuse in state government, and to learn whether employees are aware of all the means available to them for anonymously reporting fraud, waste, and abuse of public resources.
“In addition to learning state employee views of waste and fraud in the workplace, we hope the survey reminded employees that there are many avenues for safely and anonymously reporting fraud for investigation,” said Deborah Butler, Legal Counsel for the Legislative Audit Division.
The audit division provides a Web site to make it easier for all Montanans to report fraud, waste, and abuse in state government. At www.montanafraud.gov, citizens can securely and anonymously make reports of misuse or theft of government funds or property.
“Making state government as efficient as possible is a benefit to all of us,” said Sen. Dee Brown of Hungry Horse, who chairs the Legislative Audit Committee. “It’s important for all Montanans to understand that the legislature wants to know about fraud, waste, and abuse, and that employees won’t be retaliated against if they report misdeeds to us.”
Among examples of fraud, waste, and abuse in state agencies, survey respondents said nepotism was the most common. Using state time and/or resources to conduct personal business, fraudulent time reporting, and non-compliance with hiring/recruitment laws and rules were also cited as being more common than other types of misuse of state resources.
“Transparency is the hallmark of a trustworthy government,” said Rep. Denise Hayman of Bozeman, vice-chair of the Legislative Audit Committee. “By providing employees with the means to report waste, fraud, and abuse, we can bring inappropriate actions to light and make government work better for the citizens of our state.”
Butler said the survey will be conducted biennially, using results to measure efforts to publicize the means of reporting fraud, waste, and abuse, as well as to determine whether employees believe the amount of malfeasance is decreasing over time.
Butler noted that the Legislative Audit Division provides several avenues for Montanans to report incidents of fraud, waste, and abuse. In addition to www.montanafraud.gov, people with concerns can send a text or an email, or report via a toll-free number. Montana law explicitly protects whistleblowers in state government.
“We aren’t a law enforcement agency, but we are required to follow up on credible complaints we receive, and that can include involving law enforcement if necessary,” Butler said.
The Legislative Audit Division’s annual report to the legislature on accountability, compliance, and transparency in state government, which includes Fraud Hotline activity from the last 12 months as well as detailed results of the state employee survey, will be presented to the Legislative Audit Committee at its Oct. 30 meeting (8:30 a.m.) in Room 172 of the Capitol.
The report can be found on the Audit Division’s Web site at leg.mt.gov/lad/fraud-hotline. The report is also available at the Audit Division office on the first floor of the Capitol.
Butler said Montana citizens wanting to report misuse of state government resources have multiple options, including:
- www.fraudmontana.gov for anonymous online reporting.
- (800) 222-4446 to report by phone. The phone number is available 24/7.
- Text to (704) 430-3930. Like the Web site, the text function guarantees anonymity.
- Mail a report to: LAD Fraud Hotline
Legislative Audit Division
P.O. Box 201705
Helena, MT 59620-1705
Note: As used in the employee survey, terms in this release have the following definitions:
Fraud: Any intentional or deliberate act to deprive another of property or money by guile, deception, or other unfair means.
Waste: Unintentional, thoughtless, or careless expenditure, consumption, mismanagement, use or squandering of government resources to the detriment or potential detriment of the state.
Abuse: intentional, wrongful, or improper use or destruction of government resources, or seriously improper practice that does not involve prosecutable fraud.
Contact: Deborah Butler, Legal Counsel,
Legislative Audit Division
Phone: (406) 444-3122