Waste, Fraud, and Abuse reports increase

That’s the report from the state auditor, below. UO is now exempt from state audits, and its internal audit functions have been crippled since Brenda Muirhead and one (two?) of her staff left suddenly last November, after a series of disputes with VPFA Jamie Moffitt’s office. Their website doesn’t even provide the name of the current Interim Auditor:

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The office did make a report to the BOT, here. The gist is that nothing has been done, because of “nearly complete turnover in staffing during FY 16.”

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All kinds of important looking work has now been on hold for ~3 years:

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UO does pay for an off-site confidential hotline: https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/media/en/gui/41097/index.html. They will accept reports on a plethora of subjects:

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But who will investigate?

Meanwhile, here’s the Secretary of State’s press release about the efforts of their audit division – the one UO left, and has never replaced:

Confidential Hotline allows Oregonians to report concerns about waste, fraud, and abuse of public resources

SALEM — The Oregon Audits Division in the Office of the Secretary of State released its annual report on the Government Waste Hotline today. The 2015 report shows a 35 percent increase in complaints over the previous year.

“The increase in complaints from 2014 is in large part a reflection of the public’s increasing awareness about the Government Waste Hotline and increased outreach efforts to state employees,” said Secretary of State Jeanne P. Atkins. “This is good news. We want Oregonians to know that there is a confidential and secure way to report their concerns about possible waste, fraud, and abuse of public resources.”

State law provides confidentiality for the identity of any person making a report through the Hotline. Complaints come from both private citizens and state employees and include allegations of fraud, theft, unethical or improper workplace conduct, time theft, and misuse of state vehicles. Upon receiving a complaint, the Audits Division conducts an initial investigation of each report of alleged waste, inefficiency, or abuse to determine which reports warrant further investigation. The Audits Division is required to notify the Oregon Government Ethics Commission if potential violations of the Oregon ethics law are discovered. Law enforcement must be notified if potential criminal activity is discovered.

“Since the hotline’s inception, the Oregon Audits Division has estimated that they have detected about $16 million in questioned costs,” said Atkins. “Research shows that fraud is most often detected by tips from concerned citizens and state employees. This hotline serves as a check on the use of public resources and a deterrent to bad actors.”

A 2016 study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that tips are consistently the most common fraud detection method. The study showed that organizations with a reporting hotline have a much higher likelihood that fraud will be reported than organizations without a reporting hotline.

The Government Waste Hotline was established in 1995 for public employees and members of the public to report alleged waste, inefficiency or abuse by state agencies, state employees, or persons under contract with state agencies. In addition to a toll-free telephone line, hotline reports may be submitted by email, fax and by directly calling the Audits Division.

Citizens and government employees with concerns about government waste and inefficiency can contact the hotline at (800) 336-8218, by fax at (503) 378-6767, or through mail by sending an envelope clearly marked “Confidential” to:

Confidential

Oregon Audits Division

Government Waste Hotline

255 Capitol Street NE, Suite 500

Salem, Oregon 97310

A copy of the 2015 report is available here.

Klinger’s report on new UO auditor forgets to mention sudden unexplained departure of the old one

2/15/2016: In Around the O, here.

11/2/2015: UO’s Chief Auditor Brenda Muirhead leaves UO after 18 months

This is really bad news for trust and transparency at UO. Muirhead was a professional with an impeccable record. Her job was to set up procedures to enhance UO’s minimal internal controls and conduct internal audits. For example, her office confirmed that UO had never done an open affirmative action compatible search for $130K VP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett. They are currently conducting a regularly scheduled audit of the athletics department, etc.

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UO Code of Ethics requires employees to “dedicate ourselves before God to our chosen profession”, plus civility

11/28/2015: From what I can tell $130K VP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett is actually going to bring his UO ethics policy to the Senate for debate and vote.

You must “make decisions based upon the greater good” and act in “wise, ethical, and prudent manner”, while not “shifting blame or taking improper credit”. And the administration thinks the *Senate* is wasting faculty time with pointless discussions?

I’ve already seen some pretty good suggestions for amendments, including the admirably brief

“University of Oregon Code of Ethics: All employees must follow the University of Oregon Policy on Freedom of Speech and Inquiry“.

If that fails, I’ll bring up my proposal for a Senate Unethical Activities Committee, with the power to investigate and blacklist offenders:

Meanwhile, rumor down at the Faculty Club Chapel (Episcopalian) is that there will also be questions from the faculty on how we can behave ethically without dedicating ourselves before God to our chosen profession, as VPFA Jamie Moffitt has been requiring the UO Police to do, ever since that unfortunate Bowl of Dicks incident:

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Good thing our Johnson Hall bowl game junketeers aren’t sworn officers. That part about “never accepting gratuities” would be a problem.

As for the God business, sorry, but a higher authority disagrees: “… no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

11/13/2015: UO ethics policy requires “civil, respectful, and nurturing environment”

And if you fail to “make decisions based upon the greater good” or don’t act in “a wise, ethical, and prudent manner” or if you engage in “shifting blame or taking improper credit”, you have violated UO policy, and you are subject to university discipline.

That’s according to UO’s newly revised “Code of Ethics” policy, posted on VP for Collaboration Chuck Triplett’s website, and open for comment here.

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UO won’t release auditor’s instructions for upcoming athletics audit

9/17/2015: Move it along professor, nothing to see here. Really?

From: “Thornton, Lisa” <pubrec@uoregon.edu> Subject: Public Records Request 2016-PRR-078
Date: September 17, 2015 at 11:04:14 AM PDT
To: wtharbaugh@gmail.com
Reply-To: pubrec@uoregon.edu

09/17/2015

Dear Mr. Harbaugh-

Records responsive to your request made 9/15/2015 [for a copy of the instructions to the auditor showing what he will examine, etc.] are exempt from disclosure under ORS 192.501 (37).  However, the university has chosen to provide you with the preliminary objectives of the upcoming athletics risk assessmentt, which you can find below.

The Objectives

•  To gain an understanding of the athletics program in order to identify inherent risks.

•  Identify systems and processes along with related controls that are intended to mitigate these risks.

•  The results of this work will be used to develop a multiple year, risk based audit plan. 

The office considers this to be fully responsive to your request, and will now close your matter. Thank you for contacting the office with your request.

Sincerely, Lisa Thornton, Office of Public Records

The DOJ’s Public Records Manual says, regarding ORS 192.501 (37):

Enacted in 2011, this exemption allows, but does not require, public bodies to decline to disclose documents and information related to audits of the public body (or audits the public body is conducting with respect to other public bodies) while the audit is ongoing. In order to qualify for this exemption, the auditor or audit organization must be operating under “nationally recognized government auditing standards,” and the audit must still be ongoing. An audit is ongoing when it has not been abandoned, and the final audit report in accordance with nationally recognized government auditing standards has not been issued. Note that this exemption expressly states that it “does not prohibit disclosure of a draft audit report that is provided to the audited entity for the entity’s response to the audit findings.”

9/10/2015: Page down for latest email from UO auditor Brenda Muirhead.

5/20/2015: Audit of athletic dept risks due this fall – and another cut to Duck subsidies?

The last audit cut the subsidy for the Ducks by $555,227, recurring. How much will this one save?

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Oregonian and UO Auditor add drop sites for whistleblowing, muckraker docs

Whistleblowing is all the rage these days. If you’ve got some hot muck it’s a seller’s market. Investigative reporter Les Zaitz has the story on the Oregonian’s new secure drop site, here:

Want to secretly submit a tip? Try our new SecureDrop

…. We understand there are those with information they want public who don’t want to risk being identified as the source. The reasons to remain anonymous are many.

SecureDrop was developed by journalists and software engineers to address this concern. The system relies on encoded communications to dedicated computer servers at The Oregonian/OregonLive that are separate from the newsroom system.

You can find details on how to use the system and the levels of protection by going to this web page:[LINK: How to use SecureDrop.]

That link starts start with instructions for booting from a secure operating system on a USB key and installing Eric Snowden’s favorite Tor browser. Yikes.

Or you could report violations of UO policy and so on to UO. Now that we have an independent governing board we’ve got our own auditor, Brenda Muirhead. She has contracted with the outside firm EthicsPoint, for a “totally confidential and anonymous” UO fraud reporting hotline, here:

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Ah yes, the NCAA and the PAC-12. If you’re a professor you may not have realized that you could be fired for violating NCAA rules. UO’s former NCAA Faculty Athletics Representative Jim O’Fallon and our former interim President Bob Berdahl taught me that one the hard way – or tried to.

I’m no law professor, but I’m a bit surprised that the UO audit reporting site doesn’t have explicit warnings about the potential dangers to your career of reporting misfeasance and malfeasance. It seems to me that there are many circumstances where the UO administration could learn your identity from the details of the complaint or subsequent investigation, exposing a whistleblower who’d been told they’d be anonymous to potential retaliation, costly legal bills, and so on. And don’t count on UO’s General Counsel to defend you. Read the Oregon Bar’s rejection of Jennifer Morlok’s argument that interim GC Doug Park and AGC Samantha Hill had an attorney-client relationship with her, when she blew the whistle on the GC’s office seizure of Jane Doe’s counseling records:

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The UO Audit website doesn’t mention this, but if you follow the links to file a report you get handy dropdown menus for reporting various issues:

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Athletics sure is a risky business:

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Remember, if you know about any of this stuff and don’t report it, UO could fire you for violating NCAA rules. But if you report it, you could find yourself it a very sticky spot with your boss and perhaps some hostile fans. Tough choice.