OSKALOOSA — The state auditor's office is committed to fighting fraud in Iowa.
In early April, State Auditor Mary Mosiman's office completed over 100 special investigations, reaching that milestone quicker than any other state auditor in Iowa history, in just under five years.
"We were surprised ourselves how fast we reached 100 fraud reports," she said.
Every time the office issues a fraud report, Mosiman said, it puts potential future wrongdoers on notice.
"If you're going to want to handle taxpayer money inappropriately, you will get caught," she said, "and we will report on it."
Just because the Auditor's office reached a significant milestone, does not mean they are going to ease off.
"We are going to actively keep investigating and reporting on fraud. That's a given. We're going to do that. That's our job. But we would like to do something to help reduce the potential for fraud happening," she said. "Because if you look at the dollar impact, it's over $13 million of taxpayer money that should have gone toward the operation of a government entity at some level but instead, in most of these circumstances, it went for personal benefit or the operation of something that wasn't a government entity."
The first stop in recognizing how to reduce fraud, Mosiman said, is to acknowledge that it can happen to you and go to elected officials.
"Anyone who is elected to serve at a government level takes an oath of office," she said. "That oath of office carries with it fiduciary responsibility to take care of taxpayer dollars, meaning that these government officials have to provide accountability, oversight and transparency with taxpayer money."
Mosiman said it's the job of the auditor's office to communicate with government officials how they can provide oversight, accountability and transparency.
"Many of them do no have a financial or accounting background," she said. "So our office motto is 'In God we trust but everybody else, we audit."
One of the easiest ways the office recommends to fight fraud is to designate a member of the city council or the mayor to receive the bank statement directly.
"And then we show them what to look for on the bank statement, which can reduce the potential for fraud happening," Mosiman said, "especially if that fraud is cash withdrawals or not depositing cash that's received or paying for purchases electronically that the council is not aware of, specifically credit cards."
Mosiman said the more fraud is discussed, that means the more people there are holding government officials accountable.
"Which means that fraud can and will be reduced. That's the top thing that people want to have if you're going to reduce fraud, is making sure that people are aware of it," she said. "If people are aware that fraud is happening, the people who potentially want to commit fraud won't be so eager to because they think 'I could get caught.'"
Fraud affects every taxpayer, Mosiman said.
"Property taxes, sales tax, income tax, gas tax, every tax that you pay goes to government at some level," she said. "In our audit work of state and local government officials, we want to make sure that those government officials are using your tax dollars appropriately for public benefit, not for personal gain."
Mosiman said every time a tax collection is deposited into a personal bank account instead of the government bank account, that impacts the collective taxpayer because their tax dollar doesn't go as far.
"And government's reaction is usually to tax more."
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