The State Auditor says calls to the fraud report hotline are way up compared to recent years. KRQE News 13 asked if that means more taxpayer dollars are being misused.
“We best protect New Mexicans when New Mexicans engage with us,” State Auditor Brian Colón said.
The financial ‘watchdog’ state agency for New Mexico government is getting a lot of calls. It’s a 110 percent increase in people dialing in tips over three years.
Colón’s office says in 2017, there were 28 phoned reports of possible fraud, waste, and abuse over January and February. This year, that number is 59.
“We’re doing audits all year long, but the truth of the matter is, where we find the most egregious cases of waste, fraud, and abuse are when every day New Mexicans are out there saying, ‘This doesn’t seem right,'” he said.
Why the increase?
Colón believes it’s not because there’s more money misuse and mishandling, but that more New Mexicans are speaking up. He credits his efforts of going from community to community, encouraging people to report, along with New Mexicans just being fed up with the negative headlines.
“Enough’s enough. We will no longer accept second best in government,” he said. “We deserve a top rate, first class government in New Mexico, and we can only have that if the days of waste, fraud, and abuse, and frankly, offensive corruption, is no longer tolerated.”
While the auditor couldn’t give specifics of what’s being investigated, Colón says one of the most widespread issues is school activity funds, like cash transactions at sporting events.
But no matter how big or small the entity or problem, is, he says any concern is worth looking into.
“No longer are we going to say, ‘That’s the way it’s done in New Mexico.’ We’re going to say, ‘We’re going to hold people accountable,'” he said.
The number for the fraud hotline is 1-866-OSA-FRAUD, but you can also submit a tip online.