Commentary: Inspector General office will benefit citizens, state
From: Bay to Bay News
Delaware’s legislature has a golden opportunity to take a major step forward in addressing shortcomings in state agency management and a seemingly never-ending string of minor and major scandals involving agency operations. The bipartisan House Bill 405 would create a statewide Office of the Inspector General.
For the past three years, the Delaware Coalition for Open Government (DelCOG) — through contact with the Association of Inspectors General at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, presentations to good-government groups across Delaware and commentaries in the Delaware news media — has been raising awareness of the need for a Delaware inspector general for independent and nonpartisan oversight of state agencies and state-funded entities.
DelCOG is pleased to know Democrats and Republicans in both houses of the Delaware General Assembly have come together to establish an Office of the Inspector General in HB 405.
The bipartisan effort to create this office for the benefit of all Delawareans is a testament to the need for the oversight it will provide and the investigative authority that will address not only waste, fraud and abuse but also mismanagement, misconduct, corruption and neglect of office.
The inspector general will be authorized to investigate possible illegal activities in state agencies, as well as to investigate mismanagement and related issues that undermine the effectiveness of agencies and limit their abilities to help Delawareans. An inspector general also can act in concert with the Delaware attorney general to promote ethical and legal behavior and stop agency mismanagement and abuse of office.
When state agencies fail in their missions or ignore their inherent responsibilities, the public has the right to report issues, demand solutions and expect corrective actions to be implemented — a role that the Office of the Inspector General would fulfill through its mission of transparency and accountability.
Government functions best when transparency, accountability and “in the public interest” are the guideposts that state agency officials follow in making decisions and carrying out policies for the safety, well-being and happiness of Delaware’s citizens, as well as helping to ensure proper use of taxpayer money.
When state agency officials ignore or dismiss these guideposts, mismanagement and neglect of office swiftly can lead not only to conflicting policies and actions but also to waste, fraud, abuse or worse. Consequently, DelCOG believes Delaware needs a dedicated, nonpartisan and independent inspector general for oversight and investigation, ultimately to enhance public trust in our government.
An Office of the Inspector General, through its investigations and efforts to improve management, can contribute to agencies addressing chronic problems that Delawareans observe or perceive, such as suspicious bids and state contracts; questionable property and real estate sales and leases, as well as grants and loans; discrimination in agencies; failure to address widespread water pollution and related issues; and risks to the health and safety of citizens, residents in the care of the state and employees.
By exercising authority to oversee and investigate state agencies and state-funded entities for compliance with their missions and state laws, an independent, nonpartisan Delaware inspector general and staff can, among other things:
- Ensure that government agencies act in the public interest and conduct agency affairs with honesty and integrity.
- Investigate and evaluate state agency deficiencies to address questionable practices and to deter or stop waste, fraud, abuse, misconduct, mismanagement and neglect of office.
- Receive complaints by residents and state employee whistleblowers about state agency officials or agency actions or inactions, investigate them and repair public confidence in the integrity of state agencies and officials.
- Recommend changes to state laws, policies and practices to help rectify systemic problems.
- Save state taxpayer money. Inspectors general in other states and the federal government have a history of reducing waste and costly mismanagement errors well in excess of the cost to fund the office.
Because chronic and unresolved problems are counter to Delaware’s ethical and legal directives and warrant oversight, investigation and remediation, DelCOG encourages the General Assembly to pass this legislation establishing the Office of the Inspector General and giving the inspector general the tools and resources necessary to fulfill the oversight mission benefiting all Delawareans.
Finally, DelCOG calls on all concerned citizens and entities throughout the state to contact their state representatives and senators and urge them to pass HB 405 during this Assembly session and urge the governor to sign it! If you aren’t sure who your state legislators are, type in your address at this link to find their names and contact information: legis.delaware.gov/findmylegislator.
Keith Steck is president of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government.