City Launches Mobile App To Report Fraud, Tax Dollar Waste

Apr 7, 2016

City Controller Michael Lamb launches the city's open records mobile app.
Credit Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

City residents and employees can now turn to their smart phones to report suspected incidents of misuse of city tax dollars.

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb’s office celebrated a new mobile application Thursday as an extension of a hotline launched in 2013. Lamb said, so far, 50 allegations have been reported.

The city is responsible for employees servicing every neighborhood. Lamb said the app is an opportunity for people in those areas to report what they notice – the things the controller’s office can't always see.

The office isn’t necessarily looking for complaints about potholes, which can be referred to 311, he said.

“You are engaging with the city at a number of levels," Lamb said. "Whether you’re getting a permit, whether you are going to the ice rink or any of the services we provide – any of those point of sale services where you see something that maybe doesn’t look right to you – we want to know about that.”

Lamb said citizen complaints have led to several audits.

Last year, the controller’s office reviewed a year’s worth of records from the Schenley Ice Rink after a citizen complaint about the way money was handled. The audit found inadequate or nonexistent policies and wasteful spending. Lamb said those findings led to developing ways to better spend tax dollars.

Lamb also said an audit several years ago showed proof of waste and mismanagement in the records department of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. 

“It was thousands of dollars the city lost in one instance," he said. "In that case, it was a criminal matter and there was restitution and those kinds of things. But we know we can do things better than we’re doing them now. And a lot of times the ways to find how to do them better come from our citizens.”

Complaints about specific employees through the hotline are referred to the Office of Municipal Investigations, which investigates complaints against city employees. That will continue with allegations reported on the app.

The app cost $20,000 to develop and will cost $3,000 annually to maintain, Lamb said. Other resources available on the controller's website include Open Book, which lists campaign finance reports and Fiscal Focus Pittsburgh, which tracks the city's various budgets. 

Reporters can remain anonymous through the app but will be able to follow the complaint if a name is given.

Reports can still be made on the hotline at 412-255-4777. The app can be found at the Google Play and Apple stores for free.