FAQ: Fraud, Waste + Abuse Prevention Program (FW+A)
In January 2009, the Whistleblower Protection Act, sponsored by my Office and authored by Assembly member Sandré Swanson, went into effect. I worked with the State Legislature to ensure this law would help protect people who exposed fraud, waste and abuse in government. As a function of my Office's Fraud, Waste + Abuse Prevention Program, we operate a 24 hour/ 7 day a week confidential hotline that takes reports of possible fraud, waste, abuse or misuse of City resources. My hope is that this program will foster the highest standard of ethical behavior in the City of Oakland.
Courtney A. Ruby, CPA, CFE
Why do we need the hotline?
- It is important to Oakland's elected leadership that City employees have a safe place to voice their concerns of potential wrongdoing;
- The presence of a reporting system reinforces the message that all City Officials, managers and employees are expected to be held to the highest standard of ethical behavior within the law and to act as stewards of taxpayer resources;
- A confidential reporting system administered by the elected, independent City Auditor ensures objective review of reports; and
- An effective reporting system can be the most useful tool in reducing losses of City funds and resources due to fraud, waste and abuse of position.
What will the Office of the City Auditor do?
We provide the public and City employees a safe method to report incidents of possible fraud, waste, abuse or misuse of City resources (in addition to protecting City employees from retaliatory acts). This process is not intended to replace or supersede any normal managerial and/or personnel communication channels. Please note: we will not undertake an investigation unless we have sufficient basis that your complaint has merit. Additionally, in order to protect the confidential reporting process, updates of actions will not be provided.
How do I make a report?
The Office of the City Auditor has contracted with an independent company (EthicsPoint) to provide trained intake specialists who receive all calls and web-based reports. Call the hotine (888-329-6390) or file online by clicking here. You may also go to www.ethicspoint.com; choose "file a report" from the top menu; and, type "City of Oakland" (when prompted).
What should I include in my complaint?
When you call or submit your information through the website, provide as much detail as possible including: who, what, when, where and how. Be as descriptive as possible: include dates, names, location, amounts and witnesses. Provide documentation to substantiate your complaint.
Is the hotline and website report confidential and/or anonymous?
The hotline and the website allow individuals to make reports anonymously to a live operator or complete an online form 24 hours a day/7days a week. As a result of The Whistleblower Protection Act, all reports are confidential. In order to preserve the confidentiality of the process, FW+A does not give updates on the investigations. Discussion of your complaint with others, including family, friends and co-workers, may jeopardize your confidentiality and affect the investigation.
What kind of things should be reported?
Common examples include:
- Submitting fictitious invoices for personal goods and services;
- Theft of City property, such as inventory or supplies;
- Payroll or timekeeping fraud;
- Falsely reporting expenses for reimbursement;
- Stealing a check the City issued to another payee;
- Taking or "skimming" cash paid for City services - such as parking, permits or fines;
- Utilizing City property for personal use;
- Computer fraud or information theft;
- Accepting a bribe, kickback or illegal gratuity;
- Recording fictitious sale; and
- Auditing or accounting irregularities.
What happens after I file a report or make a complaint?
After you complete your report you will be assigned a unique code called a "report key." Write down your report key and password and keep them in a safe place. After five or six business days, you are encouraged to use your report key and password to check your report for feedback or questions. Often the City Auditor may request additional information from you to proceed with the investigation.
In order to preserve the confidentiality of the process, we do not provide updates on the investigations. Discussion of your complaint with others, including family, friends and co-workers, may jeopardize your confidentiality and affect the investigation.
How does the FW+A Program differ from what the Public Ethics Commission does?
The City's Public Ethics Commission addresses complaints pertaining to the following laws:
- Oakland Campaign Reform Act;
- Oakland Sunshine Ordinance;
- Limited Public Financing Act;
- Code of Conduct for City Officials
- Conflict of Interest regulations as they pertain to City of Oakland elected officials, officers, employees and staff members of boards and commissions;
- Lobbyist Registration Act; and
- Oakland False Endorsement in Campaign Literature Act.
If the FW+A program receives a complaint that falls under the jurisdiction of the Public Ethics Commission, the complaint will be referred to the Public Ethics Commission for resolution.
Who investigates Workers' Compensation fraud for the City?
As a permissibly self-insured public entity, the City contracts with a third party workers' compensation claims administrator. Fraud investigation is a part of the scope of services provided in the contract between the City and the claims administrator. The current administrator is:
JT2 Integrated Resources
City of Oakland Account
PO Box 70410
Oakland CA 94612
Phone: 510-844-3100 (City of Oakland Supervisors: Betty Hahn and Mary Silveira)
What is the department name, website address and telephone number for City employees or residents to report suspected instances of Workers' Compensation fraud?
Reports can be made any of the following ways:
- Calling the TPA at the number above and leaving a message;
- Calling the TPA's fraud hotline at 866-Fraud-42 (866-372-8342); or
- Calling the City of Oakland, Risk Management Division: Deb Grant, Risk Manager, 510-238-7165; or Gaynell Chase, Disability Benefits Coordinator, 510-238-2270.