State continues to shrink backlog of ‘whistleblower’ complaints

State government continues to reduce its backlog of employee “whistleblower” complaints, the state auditors reported Friday, whittling the pending case list down by almost 70 percent since 2008.

Auditors John C. Geragosian and Robert M. Ward also used their annual report to the General Assembly to call for tighter controls on bid purchases, lost state property, and ethics violations reporting.

According to the auditors, the state ended 2014 with 77 whistleblower complaints pending. That’s down from the 243 outstanding cases in 2008, when the auditors’ office first cautioned against an excessive backlog.

The 2014 totals also are down from the prior year, which ended with 85 complaints pending.

State Auditor John Geragosian

ctmirror.org file photo

State Auditor John Geragosian

“There is always going to be an overlap of incoming and outgoing cases, but we have reduced the backlog considerably,” Geragosian said.

Ward added this also has largely been accomplished in lean fiscal times.

The statutes that have become known as the Whistleblower Act, first adopted in the late 1970s, require the auditors to review confidential complaints from state employees alleging workplace corruption, unethical practices, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, other violations of state law or regulations and dangers to public safety. Certain types of complaints also are submitted to the attorney general’s office for review.

Geragosian and Ward’s predecessors, Kevin P. Johnston and Robert G. Jaekle, first warned the legislature in 2008 about a growing list of unaddressed complaints.

The legislature responded in 2011 – when Geragosian and Ward first took office – with some additional resources, but also by adopting a measure granting the auditors greater discretion to reject complaints – or to refer them to other appropriate agencies for review – while also expanding whistleblowers’ protections.

State Auditor Robert Ward

Ctmirror.org file photo

State Auditor Robert Ward

The auditors also issued several recommendations for legislative action in their annual report. These include:

  • Limiting when the Office of Policy and Management, the executive branch’s chief budget and policy agency, can waive competitive bidding for various purchases. OPM can opt not to use competitive bidding for services if it deems special expertise outside of state government is needed, or if it deems the benefits will outweigh the cost. The auditors wrote the latter is an “overly broad condition that conceivably could be argued to exist for any personal services agreement.”
  • Requiring human resource officials within state agencies to report suspected ethics violations to the Office of State Ethics. A reporting requirement currently exists only for department commissioners and other agency heads.
  • Clarifying construction bidding rules that allow the University of Connecticut, under certain conditions, to enter into negotiations with contractors that are not the low bidder for a possible contract award.
  • And developing one uniform statute to spell out when retired state employees can be rehired under temporary contracts to perform work for state agencies. The auditors said various and sometimes conflicting rules governing this process are spread across statutes, labor union contracts and a 2009 executive order.

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