HARRISBURG – Legislation that would statutorily create the State Office of Inspector General and give Pennsylvania’s top fraud, waste and abuse investigator more power and authority has been finally passed by the General Assembly and now has been sent to the Governor.
Senate Bill 527, authored by Senator Ryan Aument (R-36) and Mindy Fee (R-37), codifies the Office of Inspector General, which currently exists only by Gubernatorial Executive Order.
“My goal has always been to make sure we are doing all we can to catch people who cheat government,” said Aument. “This legislation – which is 30 years in the making – will help us achieve that important goal.”
In addition to creating the office by law, the legislation achieves two other primary objectives.
First, since the Inspector General’s Office will exist by law, it can be given more power and authority to succeed. Under the legislation, the Inspector General will now have subpoena powers and limited law enforcement authority, something the office currently does not have.
Second, the legislation was built on and includes national best practices for the operations of an Inspector General’s Office and the selection of who holds the Inspector General’s post.
“I am proud to enhance and promote the good work of our Inspector General,” said Fee. “Under this bill, Pennsylvania’s Inspector General will be able to do his work in a manner that is fitting for an investigator – free of direct undue influence.”
The legislation includes many provisions which promote independence.
For example, for the first time, there will be enumerated qualifications which an Inspector General must meet in order to be appointed.
An Inspector General cannot be hired based on political affiliation, must be a person of integrity, have a capability for strong leadership and demonstrated ability in accounting, auditing, financial analysis, law, management analysis, public administration, investigation or criminal justice administration or other appropriate fields.
An Inspector General cannot seek elective office during their term, and just as importantly, cannot be dismissed from their job without a substantive reason, including for cause.
The legislation also gives the Inspector General his own line-item in the state budget and places those monies under his jurisdiction, an important component of making sure his budget is not interfered with by other state government leaders.
“When Senator Aument and I drafted this legislation, we worked to not just empower Pennsylvania’s Inspector General, but to create an atmosphere where everyone can have full confidence in his work,” said Fee.
Another key component of this legislation is that it begins a new – and regular – conversation between the Inspector General and the General Assembly.
Senate Bill 527 requires that the Inspector General directly engage the members of the House and Senate by submitting an annual report that details the work of the office, the monetary value of fraud prevention, and the actual recovery of monies from cheaters. It also invites the Inspector General to tell lawmakers if there are problems in state government that need to be addressed in laws, such as loopholes or other issues.
The legislation was first introduced by Aument and Fee during the 2015-16 legislative session, however it was vetoed by Governor Wolf, who cited concerns with how the legislation created the Inspector General’s Office.
“One of the things I am most proud of,” said Aument, “is that we were able to work with the Governor and both Republicans and Democrats to craft a proposal that I believe will make a meaningful difference for Pennsylvania.”
Rep. Fee echoed Aument’s comments.
“To me, this legislation represents what people expect of their lawmakers – to actively work to enact meaningful reform in how we structure state government, to promote accountability in how we value scarce taxpayer money, and to find ways to pass quality legislation despite differences,” she said.
CONTACT: Jake Smeltz (717) 787-4420
The Pennsylvania Office of Inspector General (OIG) was first established by Executive Order in 1979 within the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. To further protect the state’s interest, Executive Order 1987-7 was issued to create a statewide OIG within the Executive Office of the Governor, possessing authority which encompasses all executive agencies.
The OIG is primarily responsible for investigating fraud, waste, abuse, and misconduct in executive agencies. To meet this duty, the OIG maintains staff in the Harrisburg headquarters office, as well as in regional offices in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Investigative reports are submitted to agency heads and the Governor’s Office of General Counsel, recommending appropriate corrective action, including employee discipline, sanctions or remedial actions for contractors, and improved policies for agencies. When applicable, the OIG recommends cases for referral by the Office of General Counsel to an appropriate agency for criminal prosecution, or to the State Ethics Commission for ethics violations. The OIG also assists federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute fraud against the Commonwealth. Additionally, the OIG conducts investigations regarding independent state agencies upon the request and cooperation of the agency.
Since 1994, the OIG is also responsible for investigating and prosecuting welfare fraud and for conducting collection activities for public assistance programs administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS). The OIG employees who perform welfare fraud detection and prevention initiatives and collection activities have a statewide presence. The OIG is headquartered in Harrisburg and operates regional offices in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Wilkes-Barre. Partnering with DHS, the OIG works to ensure that those who rightfully deserve benefits receive them. When appropriate, the OIG works with local district attorneys to prosecute those who received benefits fraudulently. These initiatives are designed to maintain the integrity of the public assistance programs.