Town tabs Navex to run whistleblower system

Town tabs Navex to run whistleblower system

Officials need to find a trusted third party

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Town officials have agreed to hire Navex Global's EthicsPoint to run its controversial new "whistleblower" system.

The system is not intended to function as a political weapon, say members of the North Providence Town Council and Financial Audit Committee, but instead as a long overdue and needed layer of accountability for government leaders and town employees.

The hiring of EthicsPoint is contingent on all records being maintained on an independent server to avoid the possibility of questionable handling or tampering, according to John Lynch, chairman of the Financial Audit Committee.

Town officials expect the new whistleblower system to be up and running "probably in a couple months," said Lynch.

"The vendor has to come in and get established and set up and all that," he said.

Whistleblower systems like the one in North Kingstown, which is also run by EthicsPoint, are "cut and dry" operations, said Lynch, leaving little room to adjust their structure.

Anthony Natale, secretary of the Financial Audit Committee, said that Purchasing Director Michael Mooney is now negotiating details of the contract with Navex's EthicsPoint. The company was not the lowest bidder, he said, but the lowest bidder did not have the experience needed.

Mooney said Monday that the winning bid from EthicsPoint was for $4,000 in the first year, a price that includes a $1,000 setup fee, and $3,000 for each year after that. For that money, the company will host a whistleblower website, which residents will be able to contact either by phone or by email with their objections or complaints about the way town business is being run. Residents will be asked to report abuse and offer solutions, said Mooney.

Members of the Financial Audit Committee and the Town Council need to select an independent third party appointee to review any material submitted and decide whether it merits forwarding to a certain department or committee, said Mooney.

"It then goes into the bureaucratic funnel, but from there, I don't know," he said.

The independent appointee will need to be someone who can be trusted by everyone with the information they are given and someone with the ability to decipher between legitimate and frivolous complaints, according to Lynch.

Mooney said that EthicsPoint officials have offered to do a full publicity campaign for the new whistleblower system, complete with posters and pamphlets, but town officials believe putting information in The Breeze and other available publicity forums is enough.

The North Providence Financial Audit Committee was formed in January of 2012 after officials from the state Office of the Auditor General required it to go along with a five-year deficit reduction plan and to create more transparency in local government.

The whistleblower system will be the central tool for the committee, accepting complaints from residents, town employees and vendors regarding questionable matters and, according to Lynch, hopefully bringing about positive results.