Under the California Whistleblower Protection Act (Whistleblower Act), anyone who in good faith reports an improper governmental activity is a whistleblower and is protected from retaliation. The Whistleblower Act can be found in its entirety in Government Code sections 8547 through 8548.5. It is available online at http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov. An improper governmental activity is any action by a state agency or by a state employee performing official duties that does the following:
- Breaks a state or federal law.
- Is economically wasteful.
- Involves gross misconduct, incompetence, or inefficiency.
- Does not comply with the State Administrative Manual, the State Contracting Manual, an executive order of the Governor, or a California Rule of Court.
Whistleblowers are critical to ensuring government accountability and public safety. The California State Auditor (State Auditor) protects whistleblowers’ identities to the maximum extent allowed by law. Retaliation against state employees who file reports is unlawful and may result in monetary penalties and imprisonment.
Ways That Whistleblowers Can Report Improper Governmental Activities
Individuals can report suspected improper governmental activities through the toll‑free Whistleblower Hotline (hotline) at (800) 952‑5665, by fax at (916) 322‑2603, by U.S. mail, or through our website at www.auditor.ca.gov/contactus/complaint.
We received 1,418 calls and inquiries during 2019. Of these, 779 came through our website, 422 through the mail, 178 through the hotline, 36 through fax, two through internal sources, and one through an individual who visited our office. In addition, our office received hundreds of allegations that fell outside of our jurisdiction; when possible, we referred those complainants to the appropriate federal, state, or local agencies.
Investigation of Whistleblower Allegations
The Whistleblower Act authorizes our office, as the recipient of whistleblower allegations, to investigate and, when appropriate, report on substantiated improper governmental activity by state agencies and state employees. We may conduct investigations independently, or we may request assistance from or elect to have other state agencies perform confidential investigations under our supervision. From 1993 through 2019, our investigative work led us to identify and make recommendations to remediate a total of $579.9 million in state spending resulting from improper governmental activities such as gross inefficiency, theft of state property, conflicts of interest, and personal use of state resources.
During 2019 we conducted investigative work on 1,645 cases that we opened either in previous years or during 2019. As Figure 1 shows, 1,172 of the 1,645 cases lacked sufficient information for investigation or are pending preliminary review. For another 299 cases, we conducted work or will conduct additional work—such as analyzing available evidence and contacting witnesses—to assess the allegations. We notified the respective agencies for an additional 89 cases so they could investigate the matters further, and we independently initiated investigations for another 34 cases. Some of these cases may still be ongoing. Further, we requested that state agencies gather information for 51 cases to assist us in assessing the validity of the allegations.
Status of 1,645 Cases, January 2019 Through December 2019
For information about the corrective actions that state agencies have taken in response to our investigations program, please refer to the Appendix.