Audit: Whistleblowers ID thousands in Calif. waste

6:14 PM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The biggest case cited this year in the California State Auditor's report involved a bribery scheme where a courier was able to pay Los Angeles-based employees of the Secretary of State and Franchise Tax Board under the table for processing numerous documents and letters off the books that normally cost $15 to $20 a page.

All three were convicted and must pay back the state nearly $250,000.

"What we see here is a lot of absolute, abject fraudulent activity," Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association's Jon Coupal said. "Add that to the waste and mismanagement of state government, I think it has taxpayers scratching their heads ... why don't we have more accountability?"

Auditors also found an EDD technician who's now in prison, helped two accomplices illegally obtain nearly $100,000 of unemployment benefits.

A Natural Resources Agency executive allowed nearly $50,000 in commuting costs to be reimbursed.

A  Fish and Game Supervisor required a farmer leasing land from the state to provide him with $5000 in Home Depot gift cards.

And for more than a year, a Department of Education employee who has since resigned filled his work day by posting almost 5,000 comments to stories on the Sacramento Bee website.

Most of the 7,000 tips reported to Whistleblowers Hotline came from state workers who care how taxpayer money is spent. Since the Whistleblower Hotline has been activated in 1993, the State Auditor reports 526 cases worth $31 million dollars have resulted in public employees being reprimanded, fired or convicted.

Most are good, hardworking employees.

"All of us are here to do a public service," California State Auditor's Office spokesperson Margarita Fernandez  said. "We should be good stewards of the funds that are being used for our services and we should be vigilent of that."

Taxpayer groups want more uncovered.

"The day-to-day oversight of state government is not sexy, but it's where the real action is and quite frankly, it's where taxpayer money can be saved," Coupal said.

By Nannette Miranda, KGO


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