Whistleblower systems – City of Portland’s OpenCity Tipline: Does Vancouver need this?

Portland City Auditor tip line logoAuditor’s OpenCity Tipline

City of Portland

Whistleblowers are crucial for democracy, says Linden MacIntyre (CBC’s The Fifth Estate). We agree.  For the good of society and for good governance, formal systems are needed to protect whistleblowers and to properly handle reports received. So how is our local government doing on this? A search today on the City of Vancouver website for “whistleblower” and “tip line” turns up nothing relevant.

In contrast, look at the website of the City of Portland. The “OpenCity Tip Line” is featured for easy access. Reports of suspected fraud, waste or misuse of City resources, and abuse of position go to Office of the Ombudsman, a division of the City Auditor’s Office. The mechanics of reporting are contracted out to a third party. This is not rocket science. Many cities have such a system. Vancouver does not.

Perhaps Vancouver could make similar arrangements. If you would like to join the effort to make this happen, please send CityHallWatch a message, to citizenYVR@gmail.com.

Below, in italics, are some excerpts from the materials on Portland’s system.

Auditor’s OpenCity Tipline, City of Portland
http://www.portlandonline.com/auditor/index.cfm?c=61771&a=437534

The Auditor’s OpenCity Tipline was established to provide City of Portland employees and the public with an anonymous method of reporting suspected fraud, waste or misuse of City resources, and abuse of position through the EthicsPoint system.

To file a complaint, you may report by phone or select the “Report Online” link at the left.

When you call or submit your information, provide as much detail as possible including who, what, when, where, and how. Be as descriptive as possible including dates, names, location, amounts, and witnesses. If available, provide documentation to substantiate your report.

Reports will be received by the Office of the Ombudsman, a division of the City Auditor’s Office. After an initial review, reports may be investigated further by the Ombudsman or may be referred to a more appropriate authority for resolution.

Other Resources

FAQ excerpts are included below:

Q: What is the Auditor’s OpenCity Tipline?
The City Auditor established the OpenCity Tipline (previously known as the Fraud Alert
line) to provide City employees and the public with a method for reporting suspected fraud, waste or misuse of City resources, and abuse of position through the EthicsPoint system.

Reports will be administered by the Office of the Ombudsman, a division of the City
Auditor’s Office. After an initial review, reports may be investigated further by the
Ombudsman or may be referred to a more appropriate authority for resolution.

Q: What is EthicsPoint?
EthicsPoint is a private company that provides hotline and case management solutions for over 2200 clients in over 300 industries. Their comprehensive and confidential reporting tool allows employees and the public to report suspected fraud, waste or misuse of City resources, and abuse of position.

Q: What kinds of things should I report?
The Auditor’s OpenCity Tipline was established to report suspected fraud, waste or misuse of City resources, and abuse of position. For a guideline to filing an Auditor’s OpenCity Tipline report, review the reportable incident examples noted on the Office of the Ombudsman’s website (www.portlandoregon.gov/auditor/ombudsman) or you may view the available report types at www.opencitytipline.com.

Code of Ethics

Explanations and Examples for Elected Officials, City Employees, Appointees to Boards and Commissions, and City Volunteers.

Link to Code of Ethics Pamphlet  (PDF Document, 70 kb)

D. Reportable Incidents

The Auditor’s OpenCity Tipline is designed to accept reports of suspected fraud, waste or misuse of City resources, and abuse of position.

1. Fraud
Fraud is defined as the intentional misappropriation of City assets by any act including, but not limited to, theft, embezzlement, or misrepresentation. Fraud can be internal or external, in that it can be perpetrated by contractors or vendors as well as by City officials and employees.

Examples of fraud:
• Misappropriation of City cash and other funds
• Submitting invoices for fictitious or personal goods and services
• Theft or unauthorized removal of City records or property
• Willful destruction or damage of City records or City property
• Forgery of any document or account belonging to the City
• Falsification of records such as time cards or travel and other expense vouchers
• Impropriety in the handling or reporting of money or financial transactions
• Stealing a check the City issued to another payee
• Computer fraud or information theft

2. Waste
Waste is defined as the needless, careless or extravagant expenditure of City funds as result of inefficient or ineffective practices, systems or controls, or misuse of resources for personal use.

Examples of waste and misuse of City resources:
• Unauthorized use or misuse of City property
• Not working when being paid to work except for authorized administrative leave

3. Abuse
Abuse is defined as use of employment with the City to obtain personal gain or benefit from the City to which one is not entitled for the employee or someone else such as a friend or family member. Such actions constitute abuse of position and abuse of public trust.

Examples of abuse of position:
• Obtaining a benefit or service from the City for which they do not qualify
• Providing a benefit or service to someone for which they do not qualify
• Unauthorized reduction of fines or fees
• Bid-fixing
• Suspending or terminating enforcement action based on a personal relationship
• Unauthorized disclosure of confidential and proprietary information

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