Senator Bob Deuell proposes the creation of such an office for the “main” state agencies in today’s Dallas Morning News and Governor Rick Perry’s office indicates support. The issue came up after controversial firings at the Texas Education Agency’s Inspector General’s office – currently big agencies like TEA have their own inspector general’s office.
Deuell and Perry are right to examine whether more efficiency and independence could be achieved by a centralized inspector general’s office that investigated waste, fraud, and abuse at multiple agencies. Moreover, it may be possible to separate this function from the agencies being monitored without creating an entirely new government agency.
First, there is already the State Auditor which has a Special Investigations Unit. Texans can call the Auditor’s Office at 1-800-TX-AUDIT to report malfeasance at state agencies. To the extent existing inspector general offices within agencies have additional legal powers, those could be added to the Auditor’s office and their employees could be moved to the Auditor’s office at no cost to taxpayers.
In additon to utilizing the Auditor’s Office, some portion of the work that involves reviewing the books could be contracted out to an independent accounting firm, further ensuring independence.
In any centralization initiative, it will be important to consider the unique aspects of agencies that have persons in their custody, whether they are behind bars or civilly committed, as these agencies will almost surely continue to need their own inspector general’s office, or a particular inspector general assigned to them, to monitor conditions, a function that helps the state avoid costly federal lawsuits.
On Wednesday, the House Government Reform Committee will discuss this issue at an interim hearing. Regardless of what the facts turn out to be at TEA, state leaders are wise to be looking at separating inspector general’s offices from many of the agencies that they are supposed to be investigating.
The DMN story is at: