Guest Commentary

Public corruption in Missouri must be investigated

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway

As state auditor, it is my job to shine a light on corruption in government and hold the powerful accountable to you, the people of Missouri.

When public servants are corrupt, there’s harm beyond the misuse of taxpayer money. There’s also an erosion in the trust we place in government officials to serve citizens, and not themselves.

Missourians ask their government to be efficient and responsible with their dollars. But it’s clear from my audits around the state that’s not always the case.

In Callaway County, we found over $300,000 was stolen by the former collector, often by pocketing cash used to pay taxes. In Viburnum, the former city clerk pleaded guilty to taking more than $100,000, much of which came from city residents’ water and sewer bill payments. And in Coffey, where $60,000 in taxpayer money was missing, we discovered the clerk used public funds to pay personal bills — covering her tracks with falsified bank documents and official minutes.

Fraud and corruption aren’t partisan. Neither are the facts and numbers in my audits.

I audit the offices of Democrats and Republicans alike, and in the past four years, audits have identified more than $300 million in government waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in Missouri. They have also helped law enforcement bring 38 criminal counts against corrupt public officials. And we know there’s more fraud out there.

Public servants work hard to earn the faith placed in them, but those who betray the public trust by abusing their responsibility cause lasting damage to citizens’ confidence. As state auditor, I’m doing everything in my power to stop that — because clear consequences for public corruption can restore the confidence of citizens, act as a strong deterrent to wrongdoing and help recover stolen taxpayer dollars.

I recently announced the formation of the Public Corruption and Fraud Division in the auditor’s office to continue the fight against officials who steal from taxpayers. This new team will include dedicated staff who will use the latest technology and data analytics to target and uncover theft and fraud.

The Public Corruption and Fraud Division also will make great use of one of the most valuable tools my office already has to fight fraud: the Whistleblower Hotline. Again and again, calls and e-mails to the hotline from Missourians throughout the state have exposed misuse of public dollars.

Taxpayers can be assured the Public Corruption and Fraud Division will have the tools, resources and expertise — as well as a laser-like focus — to expose wrongdoing, because as a certified fraud examiner myself, I am committed to creating the strongest and most robust anti-public corruption force Missouri has ever seen.

I want Missourians to know that from city hall to the county courthouse to the Capitol, fraud and abuse will not be tolerated. The buying and selling of government will not be tolerated. Corruption will not be tolerated.

And my message to government officials who don’t serve the public is this: If you commit fraud, if you steal from taxpayers, if you are dishonest with the citizens of Missouri, my office will find you, and I will hold you accountable.

Nicole Galloway is Missouri state auditor.

How to report suspected fraud

Missourians who want to report government fraud, abuse or mismanagement can contact the state auditor’s Whistleblower Hotline at 1-800-347-8597 or via email at moaudit@auditor.mo.gov. An online reporting form and more information about the Public Corruption and Fraud Division are at auditor.mo.gov. Individuals may choose to remain anonymous.

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