HARRISBURG – Rep. Mindy Fee (R-Manheim) today was joined by Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville) and Senator Dave Argall (R-Schuylkill/Berks) to call on Governor Tom Wolf to sign House Bill 1618 into law, a measure finally passed by the General Assembly yesterday that would create by statute the Office of Inspector General in Pennsylvania.
“I am proud to champion legislation that targets waste, fraud and abuse in state government programs and spending,” said Rep. Fee. “This legislation takes a great idea first offered by Governor Casey, improves upon that idea using national best practices, and sends a strong and important message those who would cheat state government will be found, stopped, and held accountable.”
House Bill 1618 takes Governor Casey’s original concept of having a waste, fraud and abuse watchdog for state agencies, which was created by executive order, and formally creates the post by law.
The bill promotes independence for the office by requiring a bi-partisan process to be used to select the Inspector General by having the Governor nominate a candidate and requiring two-thirds of the Senate to approve that choice. The Inspector General would serve a six year term, be prohibited from seeking political office during and shortly after that period, and do the important work eradicating waste, fraud and abuse without political interference.
“The inspector general position demands independence,” Fee stated. “No inspector general should fear that uncovering waste, fraud and abuse in a state agency could result in being dismissed from his or her job.”
The lawmakers stressed that the passage of this legislation is no statement about the performance of the current acting inspector general, Tyrone Powell, or Gov. Tom Wolf. “I specifically amended my initial proposal to ensure that the change would not take effect until after the governor’s term ends,” Fee noted.
“Soon after Gov. Wolf took office, he swiftly established measures to boost openness and transparency. I’m hopeful that he will see that an independent inspector general is another key component in good government.”
Senator Aument, who offered an identical bill in the Senate, said that he was disappointed the governor’s spokesman has recently referred to the bill as a “waste of time.”
“I believe we need to value taxpayer contributions, make sure that the people who are truly eligible to get help receive that assistance and that we catch cheaters,” said Sen. Aument. “The vast majority of people in Pennsylvania would never view that as a waste of time – they think trying to raise taxes on working people is by far the greater wasted effort.”
Senator Aument noted that the Governor has expressed concerns about legislation that he perceives as intruding upon the powers of the executive branch of government.
“Every Governor unnecessarily worries about maintaining their power,” said Sen. Aument. “This legislation is specifically designed to respect the Governor’s role, prevent any executive from abusing this important post, empower the Inspector General and deliver to the people a promise government should keep – to never waste the money they send to Harrisburg.”
Senator Dave Argall, who offered an amendment to House Bill 1618 when the bill was in the Senate, spoke about provisions that were included in the bill to increase the number of inspectors dedicated to finding waste, fraud and abuse in the Departments of Human Services and Health.
“For every dollar spent on welfare investigative and collective activities in the Inspector General’s Office, the state realizes an estimated benefit of $12,” Argall said. “This program would pay for itself again and again. More importantly, it maintains the integrity of our social assistance programs by ensuring those who need the help get it, and the cheaters get caught.”
The lawmakers expressed frustration that, despite championing an idea first offered by a popular Democrat Governor and including many bipartisan provisions, that Governor Wolf’s administration has consistently said he would veto the measure.
“Let’s show the people of Pennsylvania that there is value in working together,” said Rep. Fee. “This is a real opportunity to make a meaningful difference in how state government operates and to meet many of the shared goals I believe that Governor Wolf and the General Assembly have and to finally move away from discussions that only center around more taxes and spending.”