Tips of alleged corruption both inside and against government made via a special toll-free hot line already have given congressional investigators nearly 2,000 leads in 65 U.S. agencies around the nation.
Data developed from the special telephone line into the General Accounting Office indicates most of the ripoffs reported by federal workers and private citizens are taking place in social programs run by HEW, Labor, and Community Services Agency, VA and Social Security.
Many of the tipsters are federal and postal workers. A suprising number of bureaucrats have identified themselves to GAO investigators, making it easier for the watchdog agency to make checks. About half of the cases GAO has sifted from the thousands of calls already made are considered "substantive" to "hot." Examples:
A claim that a federal worker had been supporting his 3-figure-a-day drug habit with the help of his government gasoline credit card. GAO's tipster said his black market gas sales had been going on for more than two years. Investigators tentatively have concluded the report is true.
An informant told GAO that the Social Security Administration was being defrauded by more than a dozen members of a West Coast religious cult. She claimed they were all receiving disability payments from the taxpayers when in fact they were not disabled, and most held other fulltime jobs. A spot check showed 11 members of the cult living in one house, all drawing federal disability benefits based on certification -- from the same doctor -- that each "patient" was schizophrenic. Social Security was tipped off by the GAO but, according to the agency, has not taken any action to date. Maybe another telephone call is in order.
With inside help from an employe, a contractor was submitting tailor-made bids for work which he got and was paid for without completing or performing at all.
Various allegations of kickbacks from contractors to federal officials for writing grants and contracts.
Many of the calls originated from Washington. Most of the allegations involve situations in California (222), Pennsylvania (66), New York (45), Florida (48), the District of Columbia (46), Ohio (51), Missouri (42) and Maryland (32).
News of the hotline was first carried here on Nov. 15 and later picked up and run as a feature in Washington papers. It also received front page treatment in many papers around the nation, and on TV news shows.
In addition to stopping the criminal actions, GAO hopes its hot line will help it build up a "vulnerability assessment profile" that will show which agencies are most likely to be hit by fraud, or internal corruption, how and why. The toll free line is costing Uncle Sam a couple of hundred dollars each year, but it spotted waste and corruption in the hundreds of thousands in its first week of operation.
Locally, the GAO hotline number is 633-6987. Out-of-towners may call, toll free, (800) 424-5454.
Society of Federal Labor Relations Professionals will hold its annual symposium March 15-16 at the International Inn. Experts from the labor field will be on hand and speakers will include key members of the new Federal Labor Relations Authority. Call Lawrence K. Fowler, 566-5077 for details.
Jeane Ridge Young is the new director of public affairs for the Economic Development Administration. She comes to the Commerce agency from Public Broadcasting Service where she was head of PR and later director of the TV for Learning project.