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Senate works to strengthen accountability

As the Senate Finance & Financial Institutions Committee continues hearings on House Bill 1—the state budget bill for fiscal years 2010-2011— the debate heats up about how to best allocate billions of taxpayer dollars in the bill over the next two years.

The Senate voted unanimously this past week to approve legislation designed to hold state and local governments more accountable for how they spend public funds.

Senate Bill 7, which was introduced by State Senator Mark Wagoner (R-Toledo) and targeted as a legislative priority for Senate Republicans during the 128th General Assembly, would require the Ohio Auditor of State to maintain a fraud reporting system to encourage state employees and other Ohioans to report the misuse or abuse of taxpayer dollars. Sen. Wagoner worked with State Auditor Mary Taylor to draft the proposal.

Since taking office, Auditor Taylor has proactively established the Ohio Fraud Reporting System, which includes an anonymous fraud hotline (1-866-FRAUD-OH), website (www.fraudohio.com) and other important tools to help stop fraud, waste and abuse and ensure public officials are spending taxpayer resources wisely.

SB 7 would codify this service in state law to make it a permanent accountability measure and require that all employees of state and local governments be informed of these reporting mechanisms.

The bill would also extend important protections under Ohio’s Whistleblower Protection Act to any individual willing to come forward with information about the abuse of public dollars.

According to a report by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, more than 50 percent of all government fraud is detected by tips to authorities.

SB 7 would help provide an important check on state and local government spending that will work to reduce fraud, waste and abuse of Ohioans’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

I encourage anyone who suspects fraud or the misspending of public funds to report this information to Auditor Taylor’s office.

As always, I welcome your views on state issues. If you have any questions, thoughts or concerns, or if you need assistance working with a state government agency, please write to me.

Senator John A. Carey, Ohio Senate, can be reached at Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or call my office at (614) 466-8156.