In May, in yet another nod to the importance of whistleblowers in detecting and preventing corruption, POGO evaluated all 50 states’ Recovery Act websites for their inclusion of hotlines and information on whistleblower protections and procedures. Providing detailed information in an easily accessible and usable format is crucial to encouraging whistleblowers to come forward, thus providing greater transparency to states’ Recovery Act spending. We found that, with a few notable exceptions, most of the websites had significant room for improvement. To give them a chance for redemption, we recently decided to check back in on their progress.
Since our last review, nine states (California, Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin) have updated their Recovery Act websites to include a hotline for reporting waste, fraud and abuse. That amounts to a total of 26 states offering some means for reporting corruption on their site. Nevertheless, in many cases, finding these resources can be increasingly difficult or entail following a long chain of links.
Five states (California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina) have added information regarding whistleblower protections. Despite the importance of informing potential whistleblowers of their rights and current laws, only a total of 11 states have made such information available.
Eight states (California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon) have updated their websites to include information on whistleblower procedures and what happens to claims after they are reported. That brings the total to 13 states in this category.
Just to be fair, we added the District of Columbia to this round of evaluation. While we do not have data from May to use as a basis for comparison, DC’s current Recovery homepage includes an easy-to-locate link to the OIG website, providing whistleblowers with a hotline, email contact, brief summary of their rights, and instructions for submitting reports.
All in all, only 10 states have improved the whistleblower resources on their websites since May. We were particularly impressed by Illinois, whose revamped page provides a great example for others to follow! While we are pleased to see some states’ increased commitment to whistleblower input, the large number of states still lacking in all categories remains cause for concern. Blowing the whistle should be easy, regardless of where the corruption occurs, and states’ websites must play an active role in making that a reality.
-- Nina Brekelmans
Click here for our spreadsheet summarizing whistleblower information on the states' Recovery Act websites.