Tulare County opens fraud hotline

A South Valley county has started a new program to stop or prevent financial fraud from within county government. Any kind of misuse of money, whether it be using county office supplies for a side business or a contractor acting fraudulent, can be reported through the hotline.
December 17, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A South Valley county has started a new program to stop or prevent financial fraud from within county government. Any kind of misuse of money, whether it be using county office supplies for a side business or a contractor acting fraudulent, can be reported through the hotline.

At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Tulare County Assessor Rita Woodard unveiled the brand new hotline, aimed at deterring financial fraud within Tulare County's government.

Woodard said studies by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners shows "tips" -- whether anonymous or not -- are the biggest resources for uncovering misuse of money. "They came up with the statistics of Tips were over 40 percent of the fraud that had been found in that year."

She said most agencies rely on external audits, but often times they only uncover 3-4% of financial fraud.

Woodard said, "Examples of complaints that can be reported are -- an employee is being paid inappropriately. Such as, charging overtime without working the overtime or a county credit card is being issued for personal business."

The hotline has been live for roughly two weeks. It could have come in handy back in 2011 when the city of Lindsay was sued by the county for misusing nearly $1 million in Measure R funds. The money was helping pay for Lindsay's downtown revitalization project. The city of Lindsay is still paying back the $3.75 million dollars that the entire project cost.

Still, opening up this fraud hotline is not driven by suspected misuse of money. It is just a new resource for employees and Tulare County residents.

Pete Vander Poel, Tulare County Board of Supervisors Chairman, said, "If they suspect anything, we want them to feel comfortable and free with that information if they want to come forward, whether it's by an anonymous tip or if they want to give their name."

If the financial misuse is severe enough, the Assessor's office will decide if the information needs to be passed on to the District Attorney's office or grand jury so it can be investigated further.

People can report a fraud tip on Tulare County's website or by calling (559) 636-5230.


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