People who suspect fraud or financial impropriety in community organizations funded by the skills and learning branch of Nova Scotia's Department of Labour can now report their concerns anonymously.
Marjorie Davison, the branch's senior executive director, said people who work for those organizations may be more willing to call or report their suspicions online if they know they do not have to reveal their identity.
The department is paying $2,700 for a one-year trial with a company called ClearView Connects.
"It encrypts the reports right away so there's no way of tracking any kind of personal information and so for those who do want to remain anonymous, it truly is an anonymous service," Davison said. "I think that's important so that people do feel comfortable to come forward if they do see impropriety in their organization, or even as a member of the public."
The new fraud reporting line follows an auditor general's report earlier this year into Island Employment, a Cape Breton job agency that was shut down after staff reported incidents of financial mismanagement.
In that case, the staff alerted the government to their concerns without the cloak of anonymity.
'It will serve as a great deterrent,' says official
"It may not have made a big difference at that time, but I think that now it will serve as a great deterrent and also just make it easier when people are seeing fraud," Davison said.
The auditor general did not specifically recommend a fraud line in that report, but Davison said the province's internal audit centre recommended it.
"It's responding to the spirit of the recommendations in the Island Employment Association investigation report," she said.
Police investigation continues
Cape Breton Regional Police are still investigating the now defunct Island Employment Association, but no charges have been laid.
In a news release, Labour Minister Jill Balser said the government is committed to guarding against fraud.
Last year, the department also stopped funding the Cape Breton Injured Workers Association, which helps people with workers' compensation claims, and ordered a third-party review.
In September, the department said it had received the final report on that review, but declined to release it or comment on the findings.
It said the report was shared with the association and talks were ongoing on how the association could address the findings.
Marjorie Davison, senior executive director with the Department of Labour's skills and learning branch, says the fraud line should make it easier for people to report their concerns. (Submitted by Marjorie Davison)
Davison said she was not involved with that agency, but discussions are continuing.
She said she does not know how many calls come into government from people with concerns about financial accountability among the hundreds of agencies the branch funds every year.
But she said some people might call the ombudsman's office, the minister's office, or some other number.
How to report fraud
Having the fraud line puts everything in one place and should make it easier for people to report their concerns, Davison said.
Information on reporting is available here or by calling 1-888-878-0256.
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