Recently, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 66.1 Effective May 4, 2012, the new legislation created a state Fraud Reporting-System.2 The new system allows Ohio residents and public employees to report fraud,3 including the misuse and misappropriation of public funds, anonymously to the State Auditor. Although the legislation speaks to public employees' misuse of public funds, it can be assumed that private entities doing business with the State could be implicated by these anonymous complaints as well.
Complaints of fraud can be submitted through a toll-free number, the Auditor’s website, or the U.S. mail to the Auditor of State’s office. The Auditor of State is required to maintain a log of filed complaints, which will contain the date the complaint was filed, a description of the nature of the complaint, and the public officer or agency the complaint was filed against. The log will be available as public record. Thus, the information provided in the anonymous complaints will be made available to any person who requests it via an appropriate public records request.
The Auditor of State must review complaints in a timely manner, but, the legislation does not give specifics about how investigations are to be conducted or how long they will take. The legislation also does not say what the Auditor can do if, in conducting such investigations, it finds private parties are involved in the misuse of State funds. Therefore, it makes sense to watch carefully how the State Auditor actually implements this new legislation.
1 The text of HB 66 is available here.
2 The new legislation is codified at Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 117.103, 124.341 (West 2012).
3 Although there the legislation does not contain a definition of fraud, generally it involves actions where the individual knowingly obtains a benefit for himself, at the expense of others, through the use of deception. R.C. 2913.01.