Opinion

Hotline working government into shape

In this time of economic duress, it’s important for government to accomplish more with fewer resources. It’s no different than what’s already occurring with family budgets at kitchen tables across our state. That’s why legislators are scouring state government and its programs to ensure efficient and effective use of public resources.

But citizens are an important part of that process, too. That’s why back in 2007 I sponsored a bill that, when signed into law, created a toll-free hotline in the state Auditor’s Office to improve government efficiency and accountability.

That hotline — (866) 902-3900 — is available to field calls from all citizens and government employees who want to recommend ways to improve efficiency, report waste, fraud and abuse, and report outstanding achievements that could be replicated in other areas of government to save more money.

To date, the hotline has proven to be an unrivaled success and a valuable resource for citizen watchdogs.

More than 1,100 citizen contacts were made in the first 17 months of the hotline’s existence. More than half of those tips were referred to audit teams within the state Auditor’s Office and still more were referred to other areas of state government for possible investigation.

What’s more, the Auditor’s Office responds to every citizen who leaves contact information.

Among other issues, citizens have reported concerns about school construction contracts — including questionable sole-source contracts — and the practice of writing contracts to exclude all but one vendor. Those issues are being dealt with by the agency’s schools audit team.

In addition, several citizens reported a shellfish farming business was harvesting shellfish from public lands. The Department of Natural Resources surveyed the land and found evidence the business was, in fact, inadvertently using public land. DNR worked with the business to resolve the issue.

The hotline has been used to initiate a successful investigation into wrongly collected transportation taxes, improve safety mechanisms at a Pierce County school and even help a military veteran obtain a tuition waiver.

In each of these cases, and in many others, citizen watchdogs have used the hotline to make state and local governments work the way they’re supposed to.

If you see opportunities for the state to save some money, please call (866) 902-3900 or visit the Auditor’s Office Web site at www.sao.wa.gov. It’s a great opportunity for every citizen to be part of the solution.

Remember — it’s your money.

Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) was the prime sponsor of 2007’s Senate Bill 5513.

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