Committee settles on Navex for new whistleblower system

Committee settles on Navex for new whistleblower system

Company already runs one in North Kingstown

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The North Providence Financial Audit Committee has selected Navex Global, an Oregon-based company that helps large organizations track employee behavior and conduct for added "transparency" and "accountability," to operate a planned new "whistleblower" system here.

Committee Chairman John Lynch told The Breeze that the company, if approved by the Town Council at its meeting next month, will offer software and tools to bring more accountability for town employees.

Navex already provides the anonymous tattling service to North Kingstown, said Lynch, and would offer many of the same features in North Providence.

"These are pretty cut and dry, these systems," said Lynch.

Representatives for Navex, which has a "pretty standard" way of operating such programs, according to Lynch, would put the whistleblower system in place for both the town and its schools.

Bids were offered by three companies looking to create the whistleblower system for North Providence. Officials could not be reached on what the amounts for any of the bids were, including the one from Navex, and Lynch wasn't sure.

The North Providence Financial Audit Committee was formed in January of last year after officials from the state Office of the Auditor General required it as a way to create more transparency in town government. The audit committee is required because North Providence is operating under a five-year deficit reduction plan.

Last fall, Lynch told The Breeze he believed the Financial Audit Committee was finally operating as it was intended to, as a watchdog board with oversight over town operations.

The central tool for the board to do its job, the online whistleblower forum, would accept complaints from residents, town employees and vendors regarding questionable accounting and auditing matters, among other issues, and then forward them to the Financial Audit Committee for action.

There are many in town who have been critical of the requirement for a whistleblower ordinance, saying it will only bring more "political" accusations, but Lynch has pledged that the whistleblower system will be designed only as a way to get to "the truth," and not as a tool for "political" attacks.

Members of the Financial Audit Committee should take care both to keep the whistleblower program anonymous and to avoid claims designed solely to influence elections, cautioned former Auditor General Ernie Almonte when he visited the town to explain the concept last fall. Just hinting that an investigation has been opened into a claim during an election campaign can sink a candidate, he said.

A case study on the North Kingstown whistleblower system, posted on the Navex website, , talks about a technology system used to "create an open, transparent local government."

"As part of that effort, the town government selected Navex Global's Hotline & EthicsPoint case management software to provide a safe opportunity for citizens to anonymously communicate their concerns or inquiries with elected officials," states the synopsis.

Starting several years ago, there was a groundswell in the community for more information and government accountability, according to North Kingstown town officials cited in the report. North Kingstown has a "civic-minded population that wants to know about everything, so we try to be as open as possible," it states.

In particular, government officials "recognized the need for citizens to have the ability to report problems or concerns anonymously," it states.

After researching various solutions, the audit committee in North Kingstown chose Navex Global's Hotline and EthicsPoint case management. Now, any citizen who wants to report a concern, complaint or inquiry regarding the town government or school district is able to do so anonymously and confidentially, states the case study, providing a "valuable resource" to residents.