OIG Annual Report 2021: Hotlines

Part IV of the Office of the Inspector General's 2020 Annual Report

The public – including public employees – have an important role in safeguarding state and local funds. Therefore, the Office operates hotlines for reporting suspected wrongdoing, as well as an assistance hotline to help public employees comply with the state’s procurement laws. 

Over the last 10 years, the Office has expanded and strengthened its hotlines, including adding staff and increasing the ways that the public can access the hotlines. For example, the Office created an online form for reporting suspected fraud, waste and abuse, and it established a specialized hotline related to transportation funds. As a result, calls to the Office’s general hotline increased 400% between 2013 and 2021, and the Office received over 10,000 inquiries on its Chapter 30B hotline during that same time.

Table of Contents

I. Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotlines

12,392  Hotline Complaints the Office Received from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2021

The Office operates a general hotline for individuals to confidentially report suspected wrongdoing in the use of public funds and assets. The Investigations Division, with assistance from other divisions, manages the hotline. The Office also operates specialized transportation hotlines, managed by the Transportation Unit, to receive reports of suspected fraud, waste and abuse related to public transportation programs and the misuse of transportation funds. The Office’s hotlines receive complaints in a number of ways, including by telephone, online form, email, traditional mail and walk-in visits.

The Office treats all complaints to its hotlines confidentially, and individuals can choose to submit a complaint anonymously. The Office evaluates each complaint to determine whether it falls within the Office’s jurisdiction and whether it warrants action. Some complaints lead to in-depth investigations, some are referred to other agencies and some are closed if a preliminary inquiry fails to substantiate the allegations.

While not all complaints result in an investigation or review, many uncover wrongdoing, such as corruption, theft, fraud, favoritism in contractor selection, mismanagement and wasteful spending. Complaints may also lead to cost recoveries, criminal convictions, civil settlements and improvements in how government operates. 

2,690  Hotline Complaints the Office Responded to in 2021

Between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2021, the Office received 12,392 hotline complaints. These complaints have revealed wrongdoing, saved millions of public dollars and led to changes in legislation and policies. For example, a hotline complaint led to the Office’s investigation of the Westfield State University president. The Office uncovered the misuse of public funds, repeated misrepresentations to the university’s board of trustees and other misconduct. As a result of the investigation, the former president paid $185,000 to settle allegations that he used school-issued credit cards and university funds to make personal purchases and take vacations.

The Office received a hotline complaint that a contractor, NEL Corporation (NEL), was overbilling the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). The Office concluded that NEL overbilled MassDOT under contracts to repair and maintain bridges throughout the state. The Office alleged that NEL knowingly charged MassDOT for items that NEL was required to provide at its own expense under the contracts, including certain tools, equipment, sanitary facilities and personal protective equipment. In March 2021, the Office and the Attorney General’s Office reached a settlement with NEL in which NEL agreed to pay $700,000 in restitution and penalties and undertake compliance and monitoring measures.

One hotline complaint led to an investigation revealing evidence that Interline Brands, Inc., had overbilled the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) for a wide array of janitorial products over several years. The Office and the Attorney General’s Office then conducted a joint investigation that resulted in in the company repaying $2.36 million to the Commonwealth through a settlement and billing changes.

Another hotline complaint resulted in criminal convictions against two former employees of a housing development in Roxbury (Roxse Homes), Mathis Lemons and Ismael Morales, for conspiring to rent subsidized apartments to ineligible individuals in exchange for bribes. In 2014 and 2015, Mr. Morales solicited cash payments from people who were not on the waitlist for apartments. In exchange, he provided those individuals with blank rental applications and instructed them to backdate the forms or to leave the documents undated. Mr. Lemons then altered Roxse Homes’s computerized waitlist to make it appear that they had applied before the waitlist closed. Both Mr. Lemons and Mr. Morales were sentenced to two years in federal prison. 

Figure 3. Hotline Complaints by Calendar Year.

Figure 3. Hotline Complaints by Calendar Year.

In 2021, the Office received and responded to 2,690 complaints. The general hotline received 2,433 complaints while the transportation fraud hotline received 257 complaints.4 Since the pandemic began in 2020, complaints to the Office’s general hotline have doubled. While the Office received 1,368 complaints in 2019, it took in 2,986 complaints in 2020 and 2,690 complaints in 2021. The Office responded to 1,612 general hotline complaints, which led to cases across all of government, including education, healthcare, housing, human services and public safety.5 As in 2020, moreover, many of the complaints in 2021 related to unemployment insurance benefits associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the Office referred 821 complaints to the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance’s program integrity team for handling.

Figure 4 below shows the monthly complaints to the Office in 2021. While the Office receives complaints relating to unemployment benefits on its general hotline, it has broken unemployment benefit complaints out on a monthly basis due to the high volume of complaints in 2021.

Figure 4. Hotline Complaints by Month (2021).

Figure 4. Hotline Complaints by Month (2021).

Figure 5 shows the number of hotline complaints by the method through which the Office received the complaint. Most people used the Office’s toll-free hotline number to report complaints. In addition, many people used the Office’s online form or email. These three methods accounted for 55% of all complaints last year.

Hotline Complaints by Method Received

Figure 5. Hotline Complaints by Method Received.

II. Chapter 30B Hotline

10,000  Chapter 30B Inquiries the Office Received Since 2015

Fraud prevention is critical to improving government and safeguarding public assets. Consequently, the Office operates a technical assistance hotline to respond to questions and complaints concerning public procurements and public bidding laws, including Chapter 30B of the Massachusetts General Laws (Chapter 30B hotline). Through the Chapter 30B hotline, the Office helps state and local employees to comply with bidding laws and to conduct fair, open and competitive procurements. Inquiries to the Chapter 30B hotline also lead public entities to rebid contracts, strengthen procurement procedures, institute internal controls and implement other improvements. The Office accepts questions by phone, online form and email.

Since 2015, the Office has handled more than 10,000 inquiries on its Chapter 30B hotline. In 2021, the Office responded to 1,493 calls and questions about Chapter 30B, public construction bidding laws, local purchasing requirements, fraud prevention and internal controls.6

Figure 6. Chapter 30B Hotline Calls by Calendar Year.

Figure 6. Chapter 30B Hotline Calls by Calendar Year.

Figure 7. Chapter 30B Hotline Calls by Month (2021).

Figure 7. Chapter 30B Hotline Calls by Month (2021).

Additional Resources

Contact   for OIG Annual Report 2021: Hotlines


Available 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., M-F. Our confidential Hotline is for public employees and individuals with Chapter 30B procurement questions. Direct questions related to design and construction procurement to the Attorney General’s Office.

We welcome non-English speakers to contact us. Confidential translation services are available in most languages. Call Chapter 30B Assistance Contact Information, We welcome non-English speakers to contact us. Confidential translation services are available in most languages. at


Office of the Inspector General
One Ashburton Place, Room 1311, Boston, MA 02108

4 These figures include 10 overlapping complaints that staff operating each hotline handled. 

5 This is the number of general hotline complaints less 821 unemployment insurance complaints.

6 This discussion does not include inquiries from 2013 and 2014 because in 2015, the Office changed the methodology it uses to track inquiries to the Chapter 30B hotline.

Date published: April 29, 2022

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