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VIEWPOINT: Why Delaware needs an inspector general

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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.

Keith Steck | PHOTO COURTESY OF DELCOG

For the past three years, the Delaware Coalition for Open Government (DelCOG) 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 in HB 405 to establish an Office of the Inspector General.

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. The inspector general can also 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 Inspector General, through its investigations and efforts to improve management, can help agencies address chronic problems that Delawareans observe or perceive, such as suspicious bids and state contracts, questionable grants and loans, and property and real estate sales and leases; discrimination in agencies; failure to address widespread water pollution and related issues; and risks to the health and safety of employees, citizens, and residents in state care.

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 Inspector General and gives the inspector general the tools and resources necessary to fulfill the oversight mission benefitting all Delawareans.

Keith Steck is the president of the Delaware Coalition for Open Government.

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