Calling all whistleblowers
Calling all whistleblowers
NORTH PROVIDENCE - A new town whistleblower system is now up and running, and though no complaints have been lodged yet, officials say that should soon change.
Anthony "Tony" Natale, the town resident who serves as the administrator of the new system and will receive "first notification" of any complaint, told The Breeze he is somewhat surprised that no one has used the system, which is designed to allow residents to stay anonymous.
That said, Natale expects the holiday season had something to do with it and expects residents and town workers to start using the system in the new year.
"It's finally live," said Natale. "We want folks, if they can't go through normal channels, to know that we have this additional option for them."
Officials "hope there's not a lot of incidents reported, but if so, that's why it's there," said Natale.
The new whistleblower system has a prominent spot on the homepage of the town's website, www.northprovidenceri.gov , From there residents can read up on the system or "make a report."
Natale said members of the North Providence Financial Audit Committee, who helped set up the system, decided to keep most of the complaint categories recommended by the company running the system, Navex Global's EthicsPoint.
Among the 26 categories users can choose from are conflict of interest, data privacy, confidentiality and misappropriation, discrimination or harassment, embezzlement, nepotism or favoritism, improper giving or receiving of gifts, theft, time abuse, retaliation and workplace violence.
"It's the widest possible array of selections," said Natale.
As one of two public appointees on the Financial Audit Committee, Natale says residents can trust him to operate the system in a nonpolitical way, weeding out the ones that aren't legitimate and forwarding the ones that warrant investigation either to the appropriate department or to the Financial Audit Committee.
A second public person on the Financial Audit Committee, Chairman Chris Salem, is acting as assistant administrator of the whistleblower system.
All reports are confidential if that is how residents choose to file them. If someone wants to stay anonymous, all they have to do is avoid filling out personal information. The whole process of logging in and filing a complaint should take about two minutes, he said.
The entire whistleblower system is designed to give people "comfort" that government will listen, said Natale, that their concerns will "not be swept under the rug."
Natale said he can understand that some people "from the outside looking in" might think that the whistleblower system would be used for political purposes, especially with several of Mayor Charles Lombardi's opponents serving on the Financial Audit Committee, but he said "my purpose on the committee is to make sure those kinds of things don't happen."
Lombardi is "doing a great job" as mayor, said Natale, and though some on the committee may have issues with him, those issues won't come into play in the administering of the system. Showing political favoritism "is not who I am" and "not how I'll operate," he said.
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 was required to eventually be developed as the central tool for the committee's work.