In the City of Oakland, the whistleblowers are blowing. But are they being heard?
According to City Auditor Courtney Ruby, at least 80 percent of reports went somewhere while the remainder required no further action or were submitted with insufficient information. Here’s the Audit Department’s recent overview, which included this chart below.
One indisputable fact? There were many more whistleblowers lately, who started using a new city hotline installed in January 2009. The counts grew significantly: 16 in fiscal 2007; 23 in fiscal 2008; and 122 in fiscal 2009. The most recent count reflected a half-year of hotline operation, so it’s clearly been a handy tool for city employees.
With protections in place, this increased whistleblowing is probably a good thing. Public sector employees do encounter bad actors and actions, and should have formal places to turn. Especially in our litigious society, these kinds of programs are appropriate.
Are fraud, waste and abuse truly identified and then addressed through Oakland’s whistleblower program? The auditor says her department can’t provide details regarding investigated matters, due to confidentiality considerations. So the jury’s out.