Taking a Closer Look at EthicsPoint
Since 2005, the EthicsPoint reporting portal has enabled the Georgia Tech community to securely and anonymously file complaints related to ethics violations. While EthicsPoint has received a lot of attention lately, most people don’t fully understand how reports are processed and, furthermore, how to monitor the status of a complaint.
Melissa Hall, associate director for Internal Auditing, helps answer some of the most common questions related to EthicsPoint and offers a few pointers on navigating the reporting system.
How many complaints are generally filed through the EthicsPoint reporting portal each year?
Historically, about 40 percent of all complaints have been reported through EthicsPoint. However, we expect that to rise significantly. Since July 1, we have received 201 [as of Nov. 11] complaints — about a 90 percent increase compared to complaints filed through EthicsPoint for all of fiscal year 2018.
To what do you attribute this rise?
We have been encouraging the campus community to report through EthicsPoint for many years, including during the annual Integrity and Compliance Campaign. However, recent events at Georgia Tech have increased focus on employee ethical responsibilities and brought even greater visibility to EthicsPoint. Employees recognize that EthicsPoint is an option for elevating ethical issues, which have been reported at a unit level but not appropriately addressed; or where an employee has a reasonable belief that reporting at the unit level could negatively affect their current employment.
Can you walk us through how to use EthicsPoint?
Employees can either report online at ethicspoint.com or through the telephone hotline 866-294-5565. Either way, the complaint goes into the EthicsPoint reporting system.
If using the online portal, you should first enter “Georgia Tech” as the organization’s name. Then you will need to select a category and topic that most closely align to your area of concern — it doesn’t need to be an exact match. Then, you enter your “location” on campus.
After that, it asks you for your information, including if you wish to remain anonymous. It is important to remember to click “yes” or “no” in this section. If you give personal information like your name, you cannot remain anonymous even if that was your intent.
Then it asks you to complete information related to your complaint. You can even upload supporting files.
After you complete the report, including all the required fields, you hit submit. The system will generate a number that is referred to as a Report Key. You will need the Report Key to check on the status of your complaint. Please don’t lose the Report Key because it is generated one time and only to you, so if lost, we cannot retrieve it.
What happens next to the information you submit?
The complaint is assessed and triaged in terms of its nature. At that point, it is assigned to a member of the appropriate investigative team who then requests documents, conducts the interviews, and determines if further information is needed to complete the investigation.
While this is the general process, I want to stress that each case is different, so the process and time involved can vary. Some of our more complex cases may take several months.
Who can see the information submitted?
There are several departments that have oversight of the information including Ethics, Compliance and Legal Affairs, Office of the President, University System of Georgia, and, of course, Internal Auditing. As with all documents generated as a state agency, this information is also subject to the Georgia Open Records Act.
How can you check on the status of a complaint?
The person filing the complaint is responsible for going back to the EthicsPoint portal to check on the status of their case. This is why you must save your Report Key. People assume they will get a direct notification from the review team, but for varying reasons that is not always possible. For example, if the complaint was filed anonymously, we do not have any way to make contact except through EthicsPoint. Accordingly, the team will post notes to the EthicsPoint site regarding the status of the report including if more information is needed. If the complaint has been resolved, the appropriate information will be posted on the site.
Given your experience with managing cases in EthicsPoint, what are the top reminders for the campus community?
First, if you are filing a complaint, provide as much detail as possible about the complaint. This is immensely helpful as we review the information and assess possible paths to resolution.
Second, users are skeptical about remaining anonymous and think their IP (Internet Protocol) address will be traced. I can assure you it will not. Since the EthicsPoint portal is hosted by a third party, Georgia Tech doesn’t have the ability to trace IP addresses.
Third, although this third-party hosting facilitates the anonymity of the person filing the complaint, in order to remain anonymous, users should be careful to remove their personal information from any files before they upload them to the system.
Fourth, if people listed in the “engaged behavior” or “manager” sections happen to be on the review team, he/she cannot access the report. They are blocked, and it will be handled by another investigator.
And finally, you must keep the Report Key that is generated when you submit your information. You will need this to check the status of your case on the EthicsPoint site.
For more information on ethics at Georgia Tech, including the EthicsPoint reporting portal, visit larm.gatech.edu/ ethics-georgia-tech.