Some people may not know it, but if you see or know of waste, fraud of abuse in the local or Tennessee state governments then you can call a special hotline to report it.
Tennessee Comptrollers discussed this Fraud, Waste & Abuse hotline — and the results gained from tipsters — in their 2018 Annual Report, released this week.
The hotline received 870 notifications between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018. Comptrollers said 521 of those calls had merit and were investigated, according to the report.
Among only a few of them:
• Bid Rigging and Bribery: The notification alleged two employees of the University of Tennessee Athletic Department accepted entertainment from a potential vendor and imposed restrictive bid requirements that inhibited competition. Officials recommended the university require and document periodic training related to the Employee Gift Acceptance Policy.
• Inappropriate Actions by a State Employee: The notification alleged a Department of Children’s Services employee tried to influence a local election by campaigning for a friend while conducting an assessment for the state. The review substantiated the allegation, and the case was placed in review for approval. After approval, officials will place it in external review for further consideration, according to the report
• Misuse of State Property: The notification alleged a state vehicle passed the tipster at an excessive rate of speed on Interstate 40. The review determined the vehicle in question sped more than 80 miles per hour while transporting a child in Department of Children’s Services custody. No recommendations were noted, auditors wrote.
• Improper Payments: The notification alleged the Davidson County Election Commission paid individuals for work they did not do. The review substantiated the allegation and funds totaling $2,860 have been recovered from the poll workers. A finding was taken, and a recommendation was made to improve internal controls regarding payroll.
• Improper Transactions: The notification alleged improper transactions between the Town of Selmer’s Fire Chief and a Kentucky-based fire equipment supplier. The allegation was substantiated, and the review determined the fire chief falsified two invoices for equipment purchases, altered bids for equipment purchases that did not meet bid specifications, and improperly disposed of town assets. An audit finding was taken, and a recommendation was made to ensure all bid specifications are met by vendor.
• Improper Use of Agency Funds: The notification alleged the Grainger County Emergency Communications director used county funds to pay for personal cell phones for himself and his family. Although the allegation could not be substantiated, the investigation revealed the executive director allowed employees and family members to purchase cell phones and incur service charges through the district’s Verizon account. In addition, the review determined the district’s government tax exemption was improperly extended to charges incurred for personal phones, vendor hotspots, and monthly service charges.
• Improper Use of Agency Funds and Internal Control Deficiency: The notification alleged the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency was violating personnel policy by not compensating employees for time accrued. The investigation revealed multiple issues involving time reporting, travel reimbursements, failure to report fraud, and failure to get board approval had occurred on many occasions. A finding was taken, and recommendations were made that written policies and procedures should be developed to clearly define proper time reporting and accrual. The board of directors should develop policies and procedures to ensure the agency is following state travel regulations and should not pay for personal and nonemployee travel. It was also noted the executive director’s duty is to report any fraud, waste, or abuse within a reasonable amount of time to the Office of the Comptroller of the Treasury.
The hotline number is 1-800-232-5454.
People may also submit notifications to www.comptroller.tn.gov/hotline.
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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Justin Wilson” and Background Photo by Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury.